ACC basketball power rankings: Week 11
Mid-January means midseason in college basketball, and if you had preseason No. 1 North Carolina and preseason top-10 Duke being out of the Associated Press Top 25 by mid-January, well, that’s probably a “Bingo” worth something. Throw in the fact that fellow blue bloods Kentucky and Villanova are also unranked, and you get a recipe for something that hasn’t happened in the sport in over a decade (all 4 of those classic powers being unranked).
Colleague Brett Friedlander did a deeper dive on Triangle residents UNC, Duke and N.C. State all being unranked in the same poll. Turns out, it’s the 1st time it’s happened in a non-COVID season since 1970-71.
The ACC does boast 3 ranked squads, including Clemson, which remained unbeaten in league play after a thrilling 72-64 win over then-No. 24 Duke at Littlejohn Coliseum on Saturday. The steady play of Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s Stetson Bennett-aged guard, continues to give the Tigers 1 of the best inside-out star tandems in the sport with PJ Hall dominating the frontcourt.
— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) January 14, 2023
Is it time we consider Clemson a legitimate threat to win the ACC championship for just the 2nd time in school history?
We ponder that and more in this week’s ACC power rankings. Last week’s rankings are here and each team’s ranking last week is included below this week’s ranking.
15. Louisville (2-16, 0-7 ACC)
Last week (LW): 15
Another week, another 2 losses for the Cardinals. Louisville had been competitive in losses to Wake Forest, Syracuse and at Clemson. They weren’t remotely competitive against North Carolina, which pummeled the Cardinals by 21 at the KFC Yum! Center on Saturday afternoon.
14. Georgia Tech (8-9, 1-6)
The Yellow Jackets upset Miami and promptly built off that win by losing 2 games last week. The 73-72 loss at Notre Dame was especially crushing, as it felt like the kind of game that flips a season from 1 where you miss the postseason to 1 that may involve an NIT trip. I still don’t see how Josh Pastner survives this season, but buyouts are tricky things.
13. Notre Dame (9-9, 1-6)
The Fighting Irish are no longer winless in the ACC. That’s the good news, thanks to Dane Goodwin’s heroics (19 points, 12 rebounds and a huge late 3-pointer) against Georgia Tech at home last week. The loss at Syracuse on Saturday stung though, considering Mike Brey’s team led for much of the 2nd half. A team with Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Nate Laszewski and Trey Wertz should not be this bad. But Notre Dame is in trouble, and the Brey retirement chatter is again bubbling to the surface in South Bend.
12. Boston College (8-10, 2-5)
It was a 2-loss week for the Eagles, who weren’t competitive in either defeat. The defense, steady for much of the season, collapsed against Miami and Wake Forest, surrendering a gross 1.3 points per possession over the span of the 2 games. Earl Grant’s team can’t score, and if the Eagles are going to struggle defensively, the wheels may come off a once-promising 2022-23 Year 2 under Grant.
11. Florida State (5-13, 3-4)
Leonard Hamilton may look 40 despite being 74, but the price for his immortal looks appears to be bad luck. Baba Miller — FSU’s vaunted 5-star phenom who was suspended for an absurd 16 games by the NCAA for accepting benefits he did not know were illegal benefits — returned for 1 game, then fell ill with tonsilitis and missed another game. FSU lost both, 1st at Wake Forest and then at home to Virginia in a game where the Noles missed the spark Miller would have provided offensively. FSU is now under .500 in league play, and the offense, which ranks 220th in KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, is simply not good enough to get this team back toward .500 by the end of an already disappointing season.
10. Virginia Tech (11-6, 1-5)
The Hokies continue to be 1 of the more mystifying teams in college hoops. They are good offensively (41st in KenPom Adjusted Offensive Efficiency), solid defensively (61st in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency) yet have little to show for any of it. Thanks to 3 quality wins, they are still in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation, but thanks to another miserable regular-season ACC campaign, they may need to win the ACC tournament to advance to the Big Dance for a 3rd straight season under Mike Young. Most concerning? They still haven’t won a game without injured sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor, who has missed 4 of the 5 games in the Hokies’ current losing streak.
9. Syracuse (12-7, 5-3)
The Orange had won 9 of 11 before Monday night’s 4-point loss at Miami. Freshman guard Judah Mintz has given them an athletic game-changer, too.
In potential, Judah Mintz is in the upper echelon of future NBA three-level scorers.
Only underclassmen with:
FT made ≥ 70;
Makes at rim ≥ 50;
Far 2s made ≥ 30;
Very good advantage creator with solid body control. Powerful finisher at the rim.
One-and-done prospect. pic.twitter.com/eHBoNud1l9
— Ersin Demir (@EDemirNBA) January 16, 2023
That’s the great news.
The bad news is the Orange haven’t really done anything, at least to date, to beef up their Selection Sunday résumé. There is just 1 win over the KenPom Top 100, 0 Quad 1 wins and an albatross of a home “L” to Bryant. Until the Orange beat someone, they stay in the middle of the Power Rankings pack.
8. Pittsburgh (12-6, 5-2)
The Panthers’ 8-point loss at Duke didn’t derail the team’s quality start in the ACC. On the contrary, Pitt bounced back nicely with an 11-point win over Georgia Tech last weekend. The Panthers continue to slip in the rebounding rankings, though, losing the battle on the glass 40-35 to Georgia Tech after being mauled 51-28 on the boards against Duke. That’s a problem that John Hugley IV could help with, but the All-ACC center has elected to sit out the remainder of the season to address his mental health. Good for Hugley. He should come 1st, always, and we wish him the best. His loss does hurt the ceiling of Jeff Capel’s NCAA Tournament contender though, a harsh reality as Pitt remains 1 of this season’s surprising success stories.
7. Duke (13-5, 4-3)
The Blue Devils were competitive at Clemson, nearly grabbing this young team’s 1st big road win. They folded down the stretch, bested by the veteran savvy of PJ Hall and Brevin Galloway. This next 2-game stretch, beginning Saturday when the Blue Devils host No. 17 Miami, feels massive for Duke. Beat a great Canes team and parlay that momentum into a road win against struggling Virginia Tech next Monday and then we’re starting to see what this Duke team can be. Lose 1 or both and Jon Scheyer’s 1st Duke squad starts to feel like a Power 6 team that gets a 7 or 8 seed and heads home before the 2nd weekend.
6. North Carolina (12-6, 4-3)
The Tar Heels lost at Virginia but acquitted themselves well after Armando Bacot left the game in the 1st minute after spraining his ankle. Bacot then bucked initial expectations and returned Saturday, guiding the Tar Heels to a 21-point win at Louisville with a 14-point, 16-rebound performance. Bacot has now posted 59 career double-doubles, and he could set the Tar Heels’ school record with 2 this week in home games against Boston College and N.C. State.
5. Wake Forest (13-5, 5-2)
The Demon Deacons did what aspiring NCAA Tournament teams on the bubble must do this time of year last week. They won 2 games against the types of teams you can’t lose games to and remain in good NCAA Tournament position. This team still doesn’t defend well enough to feel comfortable — the Demon Deacons rank 142nd in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency and that number is trending in the wrong direction. But Steve Forbes’ offense is elite and the next 3 games — 2 Quad 1 opportunities (at Pitt, Virginia) and a Quad 2 game (Clemson) — could all but secure a bid for the Demon Deacons. That’s a good place to be as the season hits the turn.
4. Miami (15-3, 6-2)
The Hurricanes won’t be docked much by the committee on Selection Sunday for losing at N.C. State, but it sure would have been great to grab a Quad 1 road win. This Hurricanes team already has a better Selection Sunday profile than last season’s Elite 8 group — and it’s only January. But the Canes have also dropped their past 2 ACC road contests, and while that’s not a reason to panic it could become one given Jim Larrañaga’s squad has 3 of its next 4 away from the cozy confines of Coral Gables.
3. N.C. State (14-4, 4-3)
The Wolfpack continue to become 1 of the ACC’s most intriguing teams as March approaches. There’s a big-time, All-ACC-caliber scorer in Terquavion Smith. There’s steady guard play elsewhere, thanks to Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner and elite shooter Casey Morsell, who has a chance to join the rarefied air of the 50-40-90 FG-3P-FT% club this season. Morsell is currently shooting 51% from the field, 45% from deep and 91% at the foul line. And now there’s Ernest Ross, who busted out of his talented shell in N.C. State’s thrilling home win over then-No. 16 Miami last weekend.
Ernest Ross Put-back 2 DJ MIA pic.twitter.com/OxMn0BhWvm
— bball vids & vibes (@balldontlie_aye) January 15, 2023
Relegated to the bench for most of the season, Ross played a massive 21 minutes, with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and a block, in leading the Pack over the Canes. This was N.C. State’s best win of the season, and the fact that it came thanks in part to a role player coming up huge is a sign that Kevin Keatts’ team gets it and is invested, from spot 1 to the end of the bench, in winning.
2. Virginia (13-3, 5-2)
The Cavaliers’ win over North Carolina was as impressive as the team has looked since winning the Continental Tire Main Event in November. The Cavaliers suffocated the Heels defensively, holding Carolina to 39% shooting, and they won the turnover battle by 5 against Carolina’s veteran backcourt. Speaking of backcourts, is the duo of Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman the best in the ACC?
UVA's Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark are the only teammates in men's college basketball that are both averaging at least 10 points per game, 5 assists per game, while shooting at least 40% FG. pic.twitter.com/QwJqQ02vQl
— Danny Neckel (@DNeckel19) January 14, 2023
There’s an argument that that’s the case, based on both offensive production and defense. The Hoos offense has dropped off a bit of late, down from a season-high 17th to 30th in KenPom Offensive Efficiency this week. But with their balance offensively, they are still the most likely ACC champion if Clemson cannot hold on over the regular season’s final 7 weeks.
1. Clemson (15-3, 7-0)
The Tigers received star-power performances from stars PJ Hall and Brevin Galloway in their win over Duke. But it was Hall, who continues to improve every week after his return from a serious offseason injury and surgery, who impressed the most. Facing a formidable Duke frontcourt, Hall dropped 26 points on a crafty 9-for-13 from the field, giving Kyle Filipowski, Ryan Young and Dereck Lively II — all of whom tried to defend him — fits.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) January 15, 2023
Clemson has lost just twice since Hall’s return, and the Tigers defense continues to improve, up almost 40 spots in Bart Torvik Defensive Efficiency since ACC play began. That type of improvement is why it’s hard to write off Clemson’s 7-0 ACC start as a flash in the pan. This might just be the ACC’s best team.