ACC Basketball Power Rankings: Look out for surging Notre Dame
It’s mid-February, and there’s still a logjam atop the ACC standings. Six teams have double-digit league victories, but nobody has more than 11. There’s a tie for first, between the expected contender (Duke) and the surging contender (Notre Dame), but only 2 games separate 1st place from 6th place. Only one ACC team (Duke) is ranked, but for all the league’s issues, ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi still thinks this is a 5-bid conference. Finally, as bad as the season started for Virginia Tech and Syracuse, teams we expected to easily qualify for March Madness, there is hope: Both are back at .500 in the league and playing better basketball as the calendar crawls towards March.
Here’s a new set of ACC Power Rankings, with last week’s list here. Does the question asked last week — whether anyone wants to win this league — still apply? We think it does, but Duke and Notre Dame don’t play again, which probably means the Blue Devils remain prohibitive favorites because Notre Dame can’t control its fate.
Still, we’d be foolish not to take the Fighting Irish seriously, for reasons we’ll get to in the list!
15. NC State (10-16, 3-12)
The wheels have officially come off in Raleigh. The Wolfpack have dropped their last 6 games and even with the massive year they’ve gotten from Dereon Seabron (18.2ppg, 8.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists), NC State hasn’t even been close in the bulk of these losses, with all but one of them coming by more than 5 points.
14. Georgia Tech (10-14, 3-10)
The Yellow Jackets eke out the 14th position ahead of NC State ahead of Tuesday night’s “Battle of the Basement” in Atlanta. No one in the Power 6 struggles to score as much as Georgia Tech (237th in KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency), numbers that negate the goodwill from being one of the ACC’s top 5 defensive clubs in effective field goal percentage allowed, 3-point field goal defense and steals. Do I think Josh Pastner’s seat is hot? Not after winning the ACC Tournament last season. But there is little joy in the basketball being played in Atlanta, and this is a program that has been to Final Fours and played for national championships this century. The product should be better.
13. Boston College (9-14, 4-9)
Earl Grant’s team has lost 5 of 6 after starting league play a respectable 3-4. There’s not enough offense beyond the Langfords, who remain the only Boston College players to average double figures.
12. Florida State (13-11, 6-8)
At full strength, the Seminoles were starting to look like an NCAA Tournament unit after wins over Duke and Miami in late January. Since then, Malik Osborne (the team’s best player) and Anthony Polite (the team’s best defender) were lost for the season, and Leonard Hamilton’s team has cratered.
FSU has lost 6 consecutive games for the first time in more than a decade and was only within 5 points in 1 of them. This weekend, they lost Caleb Mills (their best scorer) early in their game at North Carolina, and that wasn’t even the worst indignity of the game. The Seminoles trailed UNC 18-0 and were down 24-1 before they hit a field goal.
— Florida State Men’s Basketball (@FSUHoops) February 12, 2022
It’s rough to use the tag “New Blood” when you are down 62-24 at halftime — but that’s what happened to FSU. This team is a mess, and it might get worse before the season comes to a merciful conclusion.
11. Pittsburgh (10-16, 5-10)
Pitt won consecutive ACC basketball games last week, defeating FSU in Tallahassee and knocking off NC State at home. Star center John Hugley was the key to both wins, posting 7 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks in the win at FSU and dominating NC State to the tune of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. Hugley even dished out 6 assists in the win over NC State, proof that the sophomore is figuring out how to handle double teams, which early-season scouting reports cited as a significant weakness.
10. Louisville (11-13, 5-9)
The Cardinals haven’t won since Chris Mack was fired, though they were more competitive last week in a tough 6-point loss at Notre Dame. The team doesn’t have a double-digit scorer (Florida transfer Noah Locke leads the team at 9.5 per game), and the Cardinals are woeful in the pick and roll (307th nationally, per Hoops Lens). The result? An anemic offense that doesn’t quite get enough stops defensively to compensate. That’s a roster mess that a coaching change alone won’t fix.
9. Clemson (12-13, 4-10)
The Tigers have the look and feel of a team that is much better than their record. They are efficient on offense (60th in KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency). They have a bona fide star in PJ Hall, who scored 24 in a loss to UNC last week and had 17 points and 2 blocks to earn Coach K’s praise in a hard-fought, 2-point loss to Duke. The Tigers are also 1-4 in games decided by 5 points or less and also have a loss in overtime to Drake. In other words, they are a few good bounces from being in the thick of the bubble conversation. Instead, we’re wondering if the Clemson administration will put up with another year where Brad Brownell looks more likely to take a talented squad to the NIT than to March Madness.
8. Syracuse (13-12, 7-7)
Syracuse went 1-1 last week, but somehow looked … better than they have all season? They defended well in their loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, holding the Hokies to a conference-low 38% from the field. Unfortunately, their best defensive effort of the year was wasted as the Orange shot just 37% and were thoroughly dominated on the glass, 41-31. The uptick in defense comes just in time — as this is a résumé that still has opportunities. Syracuse should be 15-12 when they visit Notre Dame next week, and they have opportunities with Duke in the Carrier Dome and UNC in Chapel Hill down the stretch. It isn’t hopeless for Jim Boeheim in Year 46, but they have to beat some teams they aren’t supposed to down the stretch.
7. Virginia (16-10, 10-6)
The Hoos had a chance to pull within a game of the ACC lead Monday night in Blacksburg but picked a miserable evening to see their offense, which had come on of late, stagnate. Virginia was 0-9 from deep in the defeat, and the Hokies collapsed off shooters to help on Kadin Shedrick, who has been such a weapon for Virginia during their February surge. The win at Duke will keep this Virginia team on the bubble into March, but a win Saturday in a tilt with fellow bubble dweller Miami could be what the committee really values.
6. Wake Forest (20-6, 10-5)
The Demon Deacons lost a tight one at Miami over the weekend, but they have 20 wins and 10 league wins, which typically is something the Selection Committee finds tough to turn down come Selection Sunday. A win this week could push the Demon Deacons into “lock” territory, and while a Tuesday night win at Duke might be a tough ask, a Saturday home tilt with Notre Dame seems inviting. A big key? Keep Jake LaRavia, one of the nation’s best playmakers, out of foul trouble. He played only 22 minutes in the loss to Miami — and the Demon Deacons were +12 with him on the floor. They lost by 4 points.
5. Virginia Tech (16-10, 8-7)
Don’t look now, but the Hokies have won 6 consecutive games and played themselves right into the bubble conversation. A big reason for their resurgence?
Last 3 Games: 20.6p, 6.3r, 2b, 1.3s
Hokies are streaking
— Wartooth 247 (@HokieWartooth) February 15, 2022
The sensational Keve Aluma, of course, who is dominating over his last 3 and poured in 24 points in Monday night’s convincing win over Virginia.
The computers love the Hokies, who rank 29th in Adjusted KenPom efficiency.
Will the high computer metrics be enough? Maybe, but wins down the stretch over UNC (Saturday) and Miami (next week) would sure be helpful.
4. North Carolina (18-7, 10-4)
When the Tar Heels shoot like they did Saturday against FSU, they are one of the best teams in the country. The Tar Heels shot 75% from the field in the first half against a top-50 KenPom defense and on the day shot 55% with 43% from deep. They put on an absolute clinic in opening up a 38-point lead at halftime lead, buoyed by the sniper’s work Caleb Love was doing from beyond the arc.
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 12, 2022
Shooting wasn’t all Love did last week, as it was his work as a passer that saved the day against Clemson.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) February 9, 2022
Does Hubert Davis’ team go as their point guard goes? Perhaps. But there are worse things in the world, especially the way Love seems to be growing up this month.
3. Miami (18-7, 10-4)
A huge week for the Hurricanes, who picked up a monster road win in Winston-Salem over the weekend. That win saw the return of Miami’s dazzling guard play, as Isaiah Wong was magnificent (20 points, 8-of-12 2PA), as was Kameron McGusty (22 points, 3-of-5 3PA). The computers don’t love the Canes, who rank just 66th in Adjusted KenPom efficiency. But there is meat on the bone, with wins over Duke in Cameron Indoor, North Carolina, and at Wake Forest, and whatever the computers think, the Hurricanes have dropped 2 games in a row just once this season. A team full of senior guards with a Final Four coach that can score and pass? Sounds like a threat in March.
2. Notre Dame (18-7, 11-3)
The Fighting Irish are not to be trifled with. That was the lesson of the week, as the Irish belted out 2 more wins and saw freshman Blake Wesley return to form with a 21-point outing at Clemson. Wesley had 15 points in the first 7 minutes against Clemson, a sign that his February fatigue may be behind him.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) February 13, 2022
The Fighting Irish scored 1.22 points per possession in that win, and are averaging 1.09 points per possession in February. Notre Dame was won 9 of 10, and Mike Brey’s team is 15-3 after a 3-4 start. They also have a win over Kentucky, which is playing as well as anyone in the country. If they could play Duke again, they might be legitimate ACC favorites. Instead, they lose the tiebreaker and will need help, which seems unlikely because …
1. Duke (21-4, 11-3)
Duke remains the prohibitive favorite to win the ACC title, especially if Trevor Keels is going to start filling up the bucket again like he did last week. Keels poured in 25 points and snagged 11 boards in the 2-point win over Clemson, a game the Blue Devils lose without every bucket. Over the past 3 games, Keels is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 free-throw attempts and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting 54.8% from the field (45.5 3P%).
If he is going to be a consistent third option for a team that has Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore Jr. playing at an elite level, it is fair to think this Duke team is Final Four good.