North Carolina and Duke.

Separated by 9 miles and 1 game in the standings as ACC play enters the final week of the regular season, the best rivalry in college sports is the gift that keeps giving.

While North Carolina can secure a share of the ACC regular season crown  for the first time since 2019 simply by winning on Senior night at the Dean E. Smith Center against Notre Dame on Tuesday night, Round 2 of UNC-Duke may decide whether the Tar Heels win their first outright ACC regular-season crown since 2017.

Duke, on the other hand, can capture a share of its second regular season ACC title in 3 seasons by beating the Tar Heels on Senior Night on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, following Monday night’s 79-64 win Raleigh.

While a nation’s eyes will be on the Tar Heels and Blue Devils on Saturday night, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee may be watching Wake Forest and Pitt just as intently this week. The Demon Deacons continue to struggle to find road wins, and according to, a website that aggregates all bracketology projections, Wake Forest is the last team in the field after falling Saturday at Virginia Tech.

One of the first four out is Jeff Capel’s Pitt squad, which ranks 44th in the NET with only 2 Quad 1 wins entering the season’s final week before the ACC Tournament. To earn a second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, the Panthers better hold serve at home this week. Two more wins would put them at 21-10 entering the ACC Tournament, where they would likely earn at least one more shot at impressing the Selection Committee.

With the stage set for both bubble and championship drama in the final week of ACC play, let’s issue one final batch of Power Rankings.

15. Louisville (8-21, 3-15)

The good news for Cardinals fans is this should be the final week of the Kenny Payne era in Louisville. The bad news is this beaten down, forlorn fan base has 2 more home games to attend before they mercifully turn out the dim lights.

14. Miami (15-14, 6-12)

The Hurricanes fought valiantly, down 2 stars, against No. 9 North Carolina last Monday. In the end, though, the lack of a full complement of players — and a generational, 42-point night from Tar Heels star RJ Davis, proved too much for the Canes to overcome in a 75-71 defeat. The fall from grace after last year’s Final Four run hasn’t been pretty in Coral Gables. Injuries have played their part, to be sure.  But the Canes have missed 2023 ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong’s creativity immensely, and Jim  Larrañaga’s team hasn’t guarded well enough to overcome the lost offense. This is probably the nation’s most disappointing team outside of Juwan Howard’s full scale meltdown in Ann Arbor.

13. Boston College (15-14, 6-12)

Just 2 weeks ago, the Eagles had rattled off a 4-2 stretch and were only 2 games below .500 in ACC play. At a minimum, an NIT berth seemed possible, which would mark the first postseason hoops for the Eagles since a NIT trip in 2017-18. Four consecutive defeats, including a humbling 25-point loss to desperate Pitt, have put most NIT hopes to bed. This isn’t the year Earl Grant hoped for in his third season on the hill, and while a winning record is still in play, Grant simply didn’t make progress in year 2. Boston College will likely give the young head coach a long leash, but with All-ACC big man Quinten Post graduating this spring, the Eagles may take a step back before they take another step forward.

12. Georgia Tech (13-16, 6-12)

The Yellow Jackets’ victory over Florida State assured Damon Stoudamire of at least matching his predecessor Josh Pastner’s 6 ACC wins from a season ago, and unlike Pastner, Stoudamire’s victories include rousing wins over top-10 Duke and North Carolina squads.

The Ramblin’ Wreck have plenty of work to do on the recruiting trail and in the portal, but if Stoudamire can shore up a leaky defense that allowed 39.4% from deep and was the worst in the Power 6 at creating turnovers (358th nationally out of 362 teams), there is talent on this roster that suggests a nice leap in year 2 of the Stoudamire era is possible.

11. Florida State (15-14, 9-9)

The Seminoles have won 9 ACC games, but they have dropped 8-of-12 and were flattened in Atlanta by Georgia Tech over the weekend. A season sweep of Miami, which visits the Tucker Center next weekend, would be celebrated in Tallahassee, but whether Leonard Hamilton can build this program back to the force it was in the 2010s is a lingering question. At 75, Hamilton says he doesn’t have enough hobbies to retire. Based on the impressive legacy he built in Tallahassee, FSU should let Hamilton leave on his own terms, but every additional mediocre season raises the question of when that becomes untrue.

10. Virginia Tech (16-13, 8-10)

The Hokies snapped a 2-game slide with a stunning win over bubbly Wake Forest on Saturday. The Hokies trailed by as many as 15 points before Hunter Cattoor got hot, hitting 5 3-pointers and scoring 26 points in a stirring comeback.

Mike Young’s team won’t make the NCAA Tournament unless they win the ACC crown in Washington, DC, next week, but the Hokies should receive an NIT invite if they close ACC play with a .500 record.

9. NC State (17-13, 9-10)

The Wolfpack’s loss at Florida State all but eliminated Kevin Keatts’ team from NCAA Tournament contention, and a blown lead in Chapel Hill over the weekend was the death knell. The Pack have won just 2-of-8 coming down the stretch, and while last year’s NCAA Tournament trip might give Keatts 1 more year in Raleigh, that’s no guarantee given a disappointing 2023-24 campaign that appears destined for the NIT. Keatts is in Year 7. He has only led the Pack to the NCAA Tournament twice — and they lost their opening game both times. The Pack haven’t won an NCAA Tournament since 2015.

8. Notre Dame (12-17, 7-11)

No team in the ACC has improved more in the past 5 weeks than Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have defended well all season (an outstanding 25th in KenPom defensive efficiency). They simply haven’t been able to score. That’s changed during this impressive 5-1 stretch that includes wins over Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and last Saturday, Clemson. Markus Burton has been sensational, posting 31 against the Demon Deacons and 21, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists, in the upset of Clemson.

Burton and Braeden Shrewsberry suggest the future is bright in South Bend.

7. Syracuse (20-10, 11-8)

The Orange have won 5 of 6, including a Quad 1 win over North Carolina. Judah Mintz has played like a first-team All-ACC player all year, but especially in this stretch, scoring over 20 in 4 of the Orange’s 5 wins while averaging 4 assists and 3 steals a night in that 6-game span. With a NET of 84, the Orange aren’t getting much NCAA Tournament consideration. That’s a shame, in Saturday Road‘s view, given the fact the Orange are a respectable 7-9 against Quad 1 and 2 and are one of the hotter teams in the Power 6 coming down the stretch. One more huge opportunity, at Clemson on Tuesday night, could change perceptions, or at least put the Orange in a position to play meaningful games at the ACC Tournament.

6. Wake Forest (18-11, 10-8)

The eye test says this team should play in the NCAA Tournament. There’s also the type of high-end talent you need to make a deep run, whether you are talking about Hunter Sallis or a powerful frontcourt led by Andrew Carr. But Steve Forbes team is just 7-11 against Quads 1 and 2, and despite a NET ranking of 31st, the Demon Deacons have won just 2 games on the road in 2024, at Boston College (Jan. 2) and Georgia Tech (Feb. 6). The “last team in” as of today on, Wake Forest needs more Joel Coliseum magic this week when they host Georgia Tech and Clemson. Lose either, and the Demon Deacons will make another NIT trip instead of their first Big Dance trip under Forbes.

5. Virginia (21-9, 12-7)

Virginia has gone from a team destined to wear white in the Round of 64 to a “Last Four Byes” team, per, thanks to a late season offensive swoon where the Cavaliers have managed to score more than 50 points just once since Valentine’s Day. Virginia can guard, even by Tony Bennett standards, thanks to Ryan Dunn and Reece Beekman, 2 of the best defenders on the ball and in help in the sport. But they are hapless offensively, and teams have gotten wise to the actions that were allowing Beekman to drive and dish earlier in the season. A steady diet of hard hedges and blitzed ball screens has made life hard on Beeekman, and none of the other guards are capable creators in his stead.  The result is a team limping toward March Madness — again.

4. Pitt (19-10, 10-8)

The Panthers are on the outside looking in at the bubble as the regular season enters the final week, but Jeff Capel’s team has won 7 of 9, with wins over fellow bubble teams Wake Forest and at Virginia in that stretch. The Panthers are marvelous on the glass (5th in the country in defensive rebounding) and suffocate teams beyond the arc (30% allowed, a top 25 mark). They also take care of the ball (top 10 nationally in turnover percentage), which is impressive given how much they rely on young guards Jaland Lowe and Carlton Carrington. The question for Pitt is whether Blake Hinson and talented young guards is enough to get them the additional quality win they’ll likely need at the ACC Tournament next week. Before that seminal moment, a 2-0 close, with home games against slumping FSU and NC State, is a must.

3. Clemson (20-9, 10-8)

The Tigers’ résumé is as good as any potential 4, 5, or 6 seed in the country — at least in terms of quality wins. Clemson’s issue is the eyesore losses, the latest of which came at Notre Dame last weekend. Are the Fighting Irish improved? Of course. Is a Quad 3 loss on the first Saturday in March acceptable for a team making a push for a top 16 overall seed? Not even a little. Clemson has a tricky final week, too, with a home finale against Syracuse and a road trip to Wake Forest, both desperate opponents. Brad Brownell’s team will go dancing for the first time since 2021, but a high seed requires the Tigers to stop losing to inferior opponents.

2. North Carolina (23-6, 15-3)

The Tar Heels are in first place in the ACC standings, but they haven’t looked like the best team in the ACC since beating Duke in Chapel Hill on Feb. 3. While North Carolina has lost just twice in that month-long stretch, they’ve gutted out narrow wins in 4 other games (at Miami, at Virginia, Miami and NC State). The team that was dominant from mid-December to late January hasn’t reared its powerful head much. The good news? RJ Davis is superhuman, which we all saw last week when he scored a Dean Dome-record 42 points against Miami.

In that game, Davis became the first Tar Heels player since His Airness to score more than half of North Carolina’s points in a winning effort. Jordan did that in 1983, for those curious. North Carolina advanced to the Elite 8 that season, where Jordan lost a classic duel with Georgia’s Dominique Wilkins.

1. Duke (24-6, 15-4)

The Blue Devils stay at the top of the Saturday Road power rankings entering the final week of the regular season thanks to improved defense. All year, we knew the Blue Devils could score, thanks to the quality inside out balance of guards Jeremy Roach and Jared McCain and one of the nation’s most versatile bigs in Kyle Filipowski. What we didn’t know is whether Jon Scheyer’s team would guard. Those questions are starting to get answered, as Duke has defended at a top 20 rate (14th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, per Torvik) over its past 10 games.

The continued emergence of Mark Mitchell as a reliable offensive weapon (he’s shooting a staggering 47% from deep in conference play) has an important side benefit: It keeps Mitchell, a great defender, on the floor defensively too. The impact has been a better defense for 40 minutes, and a team with Final Four balance that is peaking at the right time.