NC State lost a superstar, at least for now, a legend stepped down in South Bend, and North Carolina finally looked like we thought North Carolina might look in 2022-23.

Those stories dominated the ACC this week, but the showdown in Chapel Hill may have the most long-term meaning.

It took until the second-to-last weekend in January, but there they were, the talented, fierce band of Tar Heels who just might have what it takes to win the school’s seventh national championship.

Unfortunately, because of a tumble taken by Terquavion Smith, NC State’s mercurial star guard, the game might be remembered instead for rekindling a dormant hoops rivalry. A rivalry isn’t a bad thing, and rekindling an old, fierce one is good for the sport. But to lose a player of Smith’s quality, and lose sight of just how well North Carolina played in the process- that might not be worth it. But in a week full of big time league wins, UNC’s stuck out more than others, and the Tar Heels take a big jump in the Week 12 Power Rankings as a result.

Last week’s rankings are here, and listed below each team in this week’s fresh batch.

15. Louisville (2-17, 0-8 ACC)

Last week (LW): 15

The Cardinals were blown out by Pitt this week, their 8th consecutive loss. Will Kenny Payne get the chance to fix it? He should, but don’t tell Louisville fans who seemingly have forgotten about the toxicity train that was Chris Mack that. They aren’t listening.

14. Georgia Tech (8-11, 1-8)

LW: 14

A two-loss week for Georgia Tech, with the disheartening news being Josh Pastner’s team has lost its mojo defensively. As bad as the offense has been in Atlanta the last few seasons, Georgia Tech has always defended. They aren’t doing that the past few weeks, having slipped nearly 50 spots in KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency in league play, down to 127th in the country. Yikes.

13. Notre Dame (9-11, 1-8)

LW: 13

Mike Brey’s swansong in South Bend was coming, but it wasn’t supposed to be this season. Notre Dame was supposed to be a legitimate contender for the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, returning 4 starters from last year’s run to the Round of 32. Instead, the Fighting Irish are 1-8 in the league and, as first reported here at Saturday Road, Brey will step aside at the end of the season. He’s had a marvelous tenure in South Bend, but this one has gone awry and the Irish dropped 2 more games last week, adding insult to injury.

12. Virginia Tech (11-8, 1-7)

LW: 10

Saturday Road is done making excuses for the Hokies. This isn’t a good basketball team. It’s time to admit it. The Hokies have now lost 7 in a row, and even the return of senior sharpshooter Hunter Cattoor didn’t save them this week in losses to Virginia and Clemson. In fact, Cattoor was just 2-8 from the field in the loss to Clemson, with as many turnovers as made field goals. Does the 20-game conference schedule give Virginia Tech time to turn the season around? Yes. But for now, the résumé conversations can stop. Virginia Tech needs to just try to win a game. A single win would do, at least to start.

11. Boston College (9-11, 3-6)

LW: 12

The Eagles had a good week. They competed in Chapel Hill, staying in the game for nearly 40 minutes. Then they went to South Bend and wrapped up a season sweep of Notre Dame, pounding the Fighting Irish 84-72 on Saturday afternoon. The come from behind victory came on the back of 29 from Quinten Post, who added 14 rebounds to lift the Eagles to victory.

Earl Grant’s team played well down the stretch a season ago, and there’s still enough talent on this roster to make a NIT push. Perhaps a solid week will get Boston College going a bit as January turns to the homestretch.

10. Florida State (7-13, 5-4)

LW: 11

The Seminoles routed Notre Dame and then upset Pittsburgh, capping a two-win road trip ahead of a huge tilt Tuesday at home against rival Miami. Baba Miller isn’t playing more than 20 minutes a contest yet, but the Seminoles are 3-1 with Miller available to play, and he’s been impactful on the glass, adding 11 rebounds in just 32 minutes of action in the 2 wins this week. The 5-star freshman has definitely given Leonard Hamilton’s locker room a jolt of energy as well, and the result has been 2 vintage FSU wins: electric transition offense and suffocating interior defense.

9. Pittsburgh (13-7, 6-3)

LW: 8

The Panthers loss to FSU was a brutal résumé blow, a Quad 3 loss that bubble teams can’t afford in league play. Maybe that’s why Pitt fans booed in the Petersen Events Center. But here’s a better question: at 13-6 and 6-2 in the league coming in, why didn’t Pitt sell the game out? When fans show up in force, the booing makes more sense. When you can’t back a team that has had a heck of a year despite immense adversity (the loss of their best player, John Hugley IV, for example)– maybe fans should take a seat and clap.

8. NC State (15-5, 5-4)

LW: 3

State sh**. That’s what I was thinking about as I sat in the Dean Smith Center watching as Terquavion Smith rolled his legs back and forth in agony on the floor Saturday evening in Chapel Hill. Losing your best player 2 years in a row to injury is rare but it’s so NC State, and if Smith, who fortunately was released from the hospital late Saturday night, isn’t back this season, it will happen to Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack. This isn’t the same team without Smith, even with the steady play of Ole Miss transfer Jerkel Joiner in the backcourt and the continued star turn of DJ Burns, who battled bravely against Armando Bacot Saturday. Burns had 18 points on 8-13 shooting. He just couldn’t compete on the glass, grabbing just 3 rebounds. The Pack can still win plenty of games and make the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll need Smith back to make noise in March.

7. Syracuse (13-7, 6-3)

LW: 9

The Orange bounced back from the heartbreaking Monday night loss to Miami with a comfortable win over Georgia Tech. The résumé is thin, but the good news is that Syracuse has won 8 of 10 and there are plenty of résumé opportunities ahead, beginning Tuesday night when Syracuse hosts North Carolina.

6. Duke (14-5, 5-3)

LW: 7

The Blue Devils snagged a much-needed confidence building win at home, holding off Miami by 2 points. The Hurricanes had multiple chances to take the lead or tie in the final minute, but the Blue Devils defense held. As was the case in Duke’s loss to Clemson, the Blue Devils couldn’t score late in the game. Duke went the final 5 minutes without a field goal. Jon Scheyer’s group is outstanding defensively, however, and their ability to get stops won the day. Duke visits slumping Virginia Tech Monday night. A road win against the Hokies would be another “next step.”

5. Wake Forest (14-6, 6-3)

LW: 5

The Demon Deacons did what tournament hopefuls need to do and split a pair of games against ranked opponents last week. Tyree Appleby continues to make a case for ACC Player of the Year honors, dropping 24 points, adding 7 assists and 5 rebounds in the Demon Deacons win over Clemson.

He couldn’t replicate the feat against Virginia over the weekend, connecting on just 4-16 shots while being hounded by Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman all afternoon. But as Damari Monsanto (17 against Clemson, 25 against UVA) continues to improve, Appleby and Cam Hildreth get a third option to join their scoring party, and this Wake Forest team will be stronger for it.

4. Miami (15-4, 6-3)

LW: 4

There’s no shame in a two-point loss at Duke. What will irk Jim Larrañaga is that his team had so many chances to win the game and simply couldn’t come up with a bucket. Miami had 3 looks in the final minute, and Nijel Pack missed a jumper, Bensley Joseph missed an open three, and Norchad Omier missed a point blank layup. A win at Cameron could have bumped the Canes up a seed line, and there aren’t many opportunities that valuable left on Miami’s slate.

3. North Carolina (14-6, 6-3)

LW: 6

In North Carolina’s 80-69 win Saturday evening over NC State, Armando Bacot set two school records in the span of 10 minutes. First, he broke a nearly 6 decades old double-double record, posting his 62nd double-double at UNC. A few minutes later, he broke Tyler Hansbrough’s school rebounding record. Will that get his number 5 retired? He might need another Final Four to do that.

The good news is for the first time all year, Carolina looked like a Final Four team this weekend. Behind Bacot’s 23 points and 19 rebounds and 26 from RJ Davis (on a ruthlessly efficient 5-8 from the field and 14-14 at the charity stripe), the Tar Heels pulled away from a good NC State team. North Carolina was in control when Terquavion Smith got hurt, and improved to 10-0 at home this season. A big road test awaits this week at Syracuse, but it looks like Hubert Davis’s team is turning the corner.

2. Clemson (16-4, 8-1)

LW: 1

The Tigers finally lost a game, falling by 10 at Wake Forest. They avoided a two-game slide, though, besting Virginia Tech 51-50 behind 32 points from their inside duo of Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall.

Beating a desperate Virginia Tech team that has far better talent than its record is a good win, and the type of victory that demonstrates the staying power of this Clemson team at the top of the standings. This is a legitimate ACC Championship contender.

1. Virginia (15-3, 7-2)

LW: 2

Virginia grabbed a rivalry win over Virginia Tech and followed it up with a big road win at a sold-out Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem on Saturday afternoon. It was as impressive a week as anyone in the Power 6, and the Hoos did it two different ways. Against Virginia Tech, it was efficient offense, with Kihei Clark’s 20 points and 5 assists leading the way. Virginia shot 51% from the field in the win. Against Wake Forest, it was suffocating defense, as the Hoos bottled up Wake Forest and jumped to a huge lead, punctuated by this rim rocking dunk from Armaan Franklin.

Franklin scored 25 points in the win, Virginia hit 15 three pointers, and the Hoos grabbed another Quad 1 win. Virginia is one of 2 ACC teams (North Carolina) in the top 25 nationally in both Adjusted KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency, and Tony Bennett’s team now has 3 Quad 1 wins, tied for the ACC lead in that category.