As winter deepens across ACC country, conference play heats up.

Just as we all (meaning no one, anywhere, at any time) expected, Clemson and Pittsburgh met in an epic game with 1st place in the ACC on the line this past weekend. Credit PJ Hall and the Tigers for grinding out a gutty win on the road and seizing sole possession of the conference lead.

Will the Tigers be No. 1 in our power rankings? Read on!

Last week’s rankings are here, and each team’s ranking last week is included in this week’s rankings.

15. Louisville (2-15, 0-5 ACC)

Last week (LW): 15

The Cardinals nearly found a league win against Syracuse, only to be undone in the final minute. They built on that performance, to some extent, in a competitive defeat to Wake Forest at home over the weekend. But finding an ACC victory on the schedule is a difficult proposition, and as Kenny Payne said this past weekend, “Something is off” with this team. The question Payne’s boss, Josh Heird, should ask is whether that’s about Payne and his new staff or is it residual toxicity from the disastrous Chris Mack hire? That question won’t be answered this season but make no mistake, Payne’s leash won’t last forever.

14. Notre Dame (8-8, 0-5)

LW: 12

The Fighting Irish are a mystifying squad. They have one of the ACC’s better non-conference wins, defeating Michigan State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge in late November. They have little to show for themselves beyond that though, and they now sit at 0-5 in the league after a 2-loss week that included a decisive defeat on Saturday at North Carolina. Mike Brey’s team starts 4 seniors, and things shouldn’t be this bad for a team that reached the Round of 32 a season ago. There’s a lot of season left, but Notre Dame better start winning in a hurry or it will end 2022-23 as one of the more disappointing stories in college basketball.

13. Georgia Tech (8-7, 1-4)

LW: 14

The Yellow Jackets shocked the conference by upsetting No. 12 Miami on Wednesday night in Atlanta. Josh Pastner had a tremendous plan to send doubles at Isaiah Wong all night, and the Jackets did a splendid job in pick-and-roll defense, allowing just .67 points per pick-and-roll possession, the worst number for Miami all season. Lance Terry had a career-high 24 points in the win, and he followed that up with 17 in a tough loss at Florida State over the weekend. Terry also continues to get it done defensively, with this block among the highlights for a guard who ranks 4th in the ACC in on-ball defense.

Georgia Tech is 7-2 at home. It’s winning away from the friendly confines of McCamish Pavilion that has befuddled Pastner’s Ramblin’ Wreck. A win at slumping Notre Dame this week would help stem that bleeding.

12. Boston College (8-8, 2-3)

LW: 13

The Eagles grabbed a big win at home against Notre Dame and nearly swiped another one against No. 16 Duke over the weekend, falling 65-64 in a thriller. Earl Grant’s team can really defend: the Eagles rank in the top 25 in Bart Torvik defense since Dec. 1. What no one on the team outside of Makai Ashton-Langford can do is score, and even Ashton-Langford is shooting a career-worst 22% from deep this season. Grant’s offenses at his previous stop, College of Charleston, were quite good. It hasn’t translated yet in Chestnut Hill, where the Eagles rank 292nd in Bart Torvik offensive efficiency, one of the worst numbers in the Power 6.

11. Virginia Tech (11-5, 1-4)

LW: 8

What is happening in Blacksburg? The Hokies are now 1-4 in the league, and they have fallen to 0-3 without sharpshooting guard Hunter Cattoor, who was injured on Dec. 21 against Boston College. The losses are close, which I suppose is something, but a veteran team with a great offense shouldn’t be losing close games at the frequency Virginia Tech is this season. The Hokies are 4-5 this season in games decided by 5 points or less, though they have lost their past 4 games played in that range. Suddenly, this is a team with a strange résumé: the Hokies have wins over North Carolina, Penn State and Dayton — but the bad losses are starting to pile up as well.

10. Florida State (5-11, 3-2)

LW: 11

The Seminoles have fought their way to a 3-2 start in the league, and they now receive a huge personnel boost as 5-star freshman Baba Miller is finally set to make his collegiate debut after serving a patently ridiculous 16-game suspension for accepting benefits he did not know were illegal benefits while playing prep basketball. The Noles are still down 2 projected starters with Cam’Ron Fletcher and Jaylan Gainey out for the season with injuries. But with Miller, the Seminoles get a talent upgrade just ahead of a week that includes tough tilts against Wake Forest and Virginia.

9. Syracuse (10-6, 3-2)

LW: 9

The Orange have won 7 of 9. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Syracuse lacks quality wins. The Orange never led but mounted a big comeback only to fall short by 7 points at Virginia over the weekend, the latest Syracuse miss against a good team. A Wednesday night home game against slumping Virginia Tech is a résumé must.

8. Duke (12-4, 3-2)

LW: 2

A big tumble for the Blue Devils, who fell in decisive fashion to N.C. State on Wednesday night and nearly lost at Boston College on Saturday. Dariq Whitehead continues to show signs of life, a must for a Duke team that continues to struggle to score in the halfcourt.

This team will be formidable in March. But the growing pains, coupled with the absence of point guard Jeremy Roach, who is again battling a toe injury, limit what Jon Scheyer’s team is as of early January.

7. Wake Forest (11-5, 3-2)

LW: 5

The Demon Deacons are a different group at Joel Coliseum than they are outside of Winston-Salem. They have just 2 road wins, though one is at the Kohl Center (over Wisconsin), one of the toughest places to play in the country. It’s hard to figure that out if you watched them this past week. They struggled to defend at North Carolina, losing 88-79. They then escaped the KFC Yum! Center with a win at Louisville, but it wasn’t pretty, as the Cardinals dominated Wake on the glass and scored at a 1.1 point-for-possession clip (Louisville’s season high) in making the game tight for 40 minutes. Wake Forest is likely on the right side of the bubble for now but can’t afford a slip this week with FSU and Boston College, 2 teams at the bottom of the league, on the slate.

6. N.C. State (13-4, 3-3)

LW: 10

A great week for the Wolfpack, with 2 profile-building wins in their rout of Duke and a 4-point win over Virginia Tech. As great as Terquavion Smith was in helping N.C. State hand Duke its worst ACC loss in history, the win in Blacksburg over the weekend was even more impressive.

Smith had 22 points and got plenty of help from Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner, who went for 21 points and snagged 8 rebounds in the win. N.C. State still wants more from Winthrop transfer D.J. Burns inside, but 1 through 5 this is a terrific starting lineup, and the Pack have guys like Greg Gantt who embrace their role. Gantt is the consummate glue guy, averaging 4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1 block a night and ranking in the top 50 in on-ball, point-for-possession defense, per Hoops Lens. That’s the type of defensive toughness the Pack lacked a season ago, and it’s why they are nearly 200 spots better in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency this season compared to a season ago.

5. North Carolina (11-5, 4-1)

LW: 6

The Tar Heels took care of business at home this past week with convincing wins over Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Armando Bacot led the way, scoring 21 points in both wins, adding 11 rebounds per game and dishing out 4.5 assists per contest. And while RJ Davis and Caleb Love continue to struggle with consistency, Carolina is getting great basketball out of Leaky Black. The senior had 18 points in the win over Wake Forest and he has improved to No. 1 on the on-ball defender, points-per-possession allowed metric, per Hoops Lens. If the rest of the team shared their glue guy’s consistency, the Heels would be higher on this list. The good news? For all the ups and downs, Carolina is just a game out of 1st place.

4. Pittsburgh (11-5, 4-1)

LW: 4

The Panthers upset No. 11 Virginia to open the week and nearly finished 2-0 on the week before losing a lead late at home against Clemson. Still, it was awesome to see the Oakland Zoo jumping and Pitt excited about basketball again. It feels like it has been several years since Pitt was a player in hoops, and this team appears to have staying power. The lone curiosity right now? What is up with John Hugley IV, who hasn’t played in a month and continues to dress in street clothes despite Instagram and social media posts suggesting he is healthy. Only Jeff Capel III knows for sure, but you’ll never convince me this team is better without Hugley than it would be if he were available.

3. Miami (13-2, 4-1)

LW: 1

The Hurricanes dropping a road game in the league isn’t a big deal, but it was surprising that it came at Georgia Tech, an average-at-best basketball team. The Canes still struggle to consistently get stops, ranking 105th in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and we saw just how vulnerable that made them in Atlanta on a night when they couldn’t hit shots.

2. Virginia (11-3, 3-2)

LW: 3

The Hoos’ loss to Pittsburgh came on the road, and Virginia bounced back by leading a Syracuse team that had won 7 of 8 entering the game wire to wire over the weekend. Virginia also remains the ACC’s top-ranked team in both KenPom and Bart Torvik metrics, and it has the best Selection Sunday profile of any team in the league, with wins over Baylor, Illinois and Michigan on its résumé. Tuesday night’s tilt with UNC is massive — with the Heels playing for 2-seed lines and Virginia trying desperately to remain in the 1-seed conversation. We can’t in good faith rank a team with 2 league losses 1st in the Power Rankings when an unbeaten team is available, but you’d get no argument from us if you maintained that this was the ACC’s best Final Four threat.

1. Clemson (13-3, 5-0)

LW: 7

This doesn’t feel like the best team in the ACC, but then again you are what the standings say you are. The early loss to South Carolina is still a mystery, and the egg the Tigers laid in Atlanta against a middling Loyola Chicago team was bizarre. But those games feel like a long time ago now and at least 1 came without PJ Hall, who is a gamechanger who raises the whole team’s ceiling. That Brad Brownell has found something in sophomore Ben Middlebrooks to allow Hall an occasional breather is huge, too. But the biggest thing about this Clemson team right now is how it is playing defense. The Tigers rank 1st in the ACC in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency in league play, per Bart Torvik. The toughness of old men like Hunter Tyson and Brevin Galloway shows night after night, and it was Galloway’s offense, on a physical drive, that won the day at Pitt over the weekend.

Brownell and Jeff Capel III being in the top 5 of this list after starting the season on the hot seat tells you a lot about the healthy culture at both programs. It’s hard to block out that type of noise and win, but the Tigers are doing it and appear to be getting better every game.