ACC Basketball Power Rankings Week 17: There's a new No. 1
The largest comeback in ACC basketball history and a big home win by a desperate bubble team that happened to be the preseason number one has shaken up the conference with just one week remaining in the regular season.
Down 25 points against their rival, FSU reminded people why they have won so many games in the Leonard Hamilton era, picking up the tempo, forcing turnovers, and attacking the rim to erase a huge Miami lead and give Matthew Cleveland a chance to do this at the end of the game.
MATTHEW CLEVELAND WINS IT FOR @FSUHoops AT THE BUZZER 😱
The Noles were down as many as 25, but stormed back to shock their in-state rivals 🔥
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) February 25, 2023
Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina jumped out to a huge lead of its own and held on in the second half, besting Virginia to collect the team’s first Quad 1 win of the season. That’s not a typo: North Carolina’s first Quad 1 win of the year came on Feb. 25. The preseason No. 1 is back on the right side of the bubble after the victory, but they are hardly safe. A win over rival Duke this weekend may still be necessary.
The results in these contests mean the battle for the 1 seed at the ACC Tournament will come down to the final week of the regular season. Who will win the regular season crown? Could it all come down to Pitt’s visit to Miami next Saturday night? What does a wild week in the league mean for the Power Rankings? Is there a new number one?
Last week’s rankings are here. Read on to see what’s changed this week.
15. Louisville (4-25, 2-16)
The Cardinals return to the cellar after losing at Duke in a game they led for 8 minutes and then falling at Georgia Tech over the weekend in a game that wasn’t competitive. El Ellis scored 18 points per game in those contests, but he’ll need more than his season average (18 ppg) to overtake Tyree Appleby of Wake Forest for the league scoring title.
14. Notre Dame (10-19, 2-16)
Last Week (LW): 15
The Fighting Irish continue to be competitive. They also continue to lose. A 4-point loss to North Carolina at home and an 8-point loss on the road to a Wake Forest team fighting for its bubble life were the latest close calls. Notre Dame scored 7 points in 13 minutes in the second half against Wake Forest, spoiling a strong game from freshman Ven-Allen Lubin, who had 19 points on an efficient 9-for-13 from the floor, with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. Notre Dame’s 4 graduate students? They were a putrid 11-for-38 from the floor in the loss.
13. Georgia Tech (12-17, 4-14)
Josh Pastner’s team has improved, but a 13 seed (now all but certain) in the ACC Tournament isn’t likely to save his job. The sterling play of Javon Franklin continues. The forward had 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a close defeat at Pitt and then poured in 21 with 13 rebounds in Tech’s win over Louisville in Atlanta on Saturday. Kyle Sturdivant also had a career high 10 assists in the win over the Cardinals, which gave the Yellow Jackets revenge after Louisville beat Tech at the KFC Yum! Center earlier in February.
12. Virginia Tech (16-13, 6-12)
We can stop pretending the Hokies have a chance to sneak into the at-large discussion. That’s the verdict after Virginia Tech was smashed in 2 Quad 1 games this week, losing at Duke over the weekend and coming up short against visiting Miami midweek. Mike Young’s team will finish a second consecutive regular season out of the bubble picture, but the talent is there to win another ACC Tournament. It’s up to Young and his staff to find a way to make a talented team play together for at least 4 or 5 days.
11. Florida State (9-20, 7-11)
The Seminoles were on the precipice of moving into the 14 spot in the Power Rankings, trailing No. 13 Miami by 25 in Coral Gables on Saturday before they flipped a switch and played, if only for a half, like the “New Blood” program Leonard Hamilton meticulously built over the course of the past decade. The FSU radio call of the 25 point comeback was perfection:
Behind the Mic of the @SeminolesSN Final Call of Matthew Cleveland’s buzzer beater to beat Miami! #OneTribe pic.twitter.com/M6nuthAkQn
— Seminole Sports Network (@SeminolesSN) February 26, 2023
The Seminoles got 20 from Cleveland, including the game-winner, to complement the 20 Darin Green Jr. posted in the 85-84 win. With 7 ACC wins, the Seminoles have a chance to avoid playing on Day 1 in Greensboro, but they’ll need to upset North Carolina on Senior Night in Tallahassee on Monday night or win in Blacksburg against a Virginia Tech team also fighting for seeding on Saturday.
10. Syracuse (16-13, 9-9)
The Orange are struggling down the stretch. Jim Boeheim’s club has dropped 3 straight, including 2 lopsided games on the road last week where the 2-3 zone surrendered 95 points per contest. Syracuse now ranks 187th in the nation in KenPom Defensive Efficiency, and the number is in the 200s in ACC play. The Orange are now at risk of having to play basketball on Day 1 at the ACC Tournament.
9. Boston College (14-15, 8-10)
Is this the squad no one wants to play in Greensboro? The Eagles have defeated 3 Top-25 teams this season, the most for a Boston College team in over a decade. Another one of those wins came last week, when the Eagles thumped No. 6 Virginia in a court-storming win at the Conte Center, 63-48.
✅BC’s 8 ACC wins are most since Steve Donahue’s debut in 2010-11.
✅This marks the first time BC beat three ranked teams in a season since Al Skinner’s 2008-089 team.
✅Earl Grant said this about Eagles' upset of No. 6 UVA: “I thought this was a big step for our program." pic.twitter.com/XLNZMHaDls
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 23, 2023
The biggest reason for Boston College’s improved fortunes? Defense. Earl Grant’s defense is ranked just 107th in KenPom Defensive Efficiency, but they’ve been a top 50 outfit nationally since January 31, per Bart Torvik. That’s a positive trend and it’s the reason the Eagles have a solid chance to close the year above .500 if they can swipe a win on the road at Wake Forest this week.
8. Wake Forest (18-11, 10-8)
The Demon Deacons have had their chances. That’s the reality when you evaluate their NCAA Tournament résumé with Selection Sunday approaching. Wake Forest needed to grab a Quad 1 win somewhere down the stretch, and 2 road games at Miami and NC State were prime opportunities. The Deacs lost both, which means they likely will need to win the ACC Tournament to find their way into the NCAA Tournament field. Tyree Appleby, who went to 1 NCAA Tournament and 1 NIT at Florida, would prefer the Big Dance of course, but he may have to settle for All-ACC honors and the league scoring title. Appleby had 21 points and 6 assists in Wake Forest’s lone win last week, a 66-58 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon.
7. North Carolina (18-11, 10-8)
Finally, the Tar Heels have a signature win on their résumé. Yes, it came against a slumping Virginia team that has lost its way offensively. But at this point in the season, beggars cannot be choosers. The hero of the win? None other than the much maligned Northwestern transfer Pete Nance. The forward has been used poorly by Hubert Davis all season. Never a volume 3-point shooter, Davis tried to force Nance into the role of a floor spacing “stretch 4” to fill the void left behind by Brady Manek. In truth, Nance has always been a better big closer to the basket. Nance had 22 points, and used his inside game to set up his outside game, connecting on 4 3-pointers, in Carolina’s win. His defense? That keyed everything, with his 4 blocks setting the tone for the Tar Heels’ defensive dominance.
hard to put into words just how exceptional Pete Nance’s rim protection was against Virginia
look at the activity! the ground coverage! the timing! man oh man pic.twitter.com/UC4HuTag3x
— Trevor William Marks (@twmarks_) February 27, 2023
Nance’s emergence could give North Carolina momentum as the calendar turns to March. It’s too early to say history is repeating itself, but there’s no way to understate how big this win was for the Tar Heels. Another golden chance comes when Duke makes the 8-mile trek to the Dean Dome on Saturday.
6. NC State (22-8, 12-7)
NC State isn’t struggling, but they aren’t excelling down the stretch, either. That much is clear after the Wolfpack lost for the 3rd time in 6 games this week, blown out on their home floor by Clemson on Saturday afternoon. Kevin Keatts’ team is outstanding offensively, but they rank just 79th in KenPom Defensive Efficiency, which makes it hard for them to weather the games when Terquavion Smith can’t get enough shots to fall. Smith has gone 8-for-31 in NC State’s past 2 losses, at Syracuse and against Clemson. As good as the supporting cast is this year — and it is good, as I wrote last week — Smith is still the sun around which State orbits. They’ll need him to pick up his play again to have a chance to win the ACC Tournament or make a deep run in March.
5. Clemson (21-8, 13-5)
What to do with Brad Brownell’s team? I don’t think an ACC team has played as impressive a half of basketball all year (maybe Virginia’s second half against Baylor during Feast Week?) than the Tigers did Saturday in Raleigh. Clemson jumped all over NC State, with a 54-point first-half outburst that staked the Tigers to a 25-point lead in a game they won by the same margin. All of Clemson’s stars were excellent. PJ Hall was his All-ACC self, a lethally efficient 9-for-11 from the field with 20 points and 6 rebounds. Brevin Galloway was unconscious, playing his best basketball since a midseason injury, with 28 points, including 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.
.@BrevinGalloway was on another level yesterday 🥵😳🤯📈 pic.twitter.com/rlXly66ePQ
— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) February 26, 2023
Hunter Tyson? He put up his 14th double-double of the season, with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Clemson team that showed up Saturday could beat anyone, which is what makes this group so curious for the NCAA Selection Committee. How do you reconcile losses to Louisville, Loyola-Chicago and South Carolina (sans Hall) with what we saw Saturday? Is there enough meat on the bone to at least get sent to Dayton for the First Four? A win at struggling Virginia on Tuesday would likely end the debate. Do the Tigers have that in them?
4. Virginia (21-6, 13-5)
The Cavaliers fall out of the top 2 for the first time in weeks after a 2-loss road trip. Losing to a desperate North Carolina in Chapel Hill is not cause for alarm, but the 48-point output on 32% shooting against Boston College is deeply concerning. For much of the season, improved offense from Reece Beekman and better shooting from Armaan Franklin had Virginia in the national championship efficiency range: top 25 in both offense and defense in KenPom. Now? Virginia is struggling offensively, in the 100s since February 1, per Bart Torvik. They have also fallen out of the top 25 defensively for the first time this year, ranking 27th in KenPom defense as of Monday. That’s not the direction you want to be heading as the calendar turns to March.
3. Miami (23-6, 14-5)
The Hurricanes looked every bit the best team in the ACC for 60 of the 80 minutes of basketball they played this week. They went on the road to a brutal environment at Virginia Tech and won by 6 points. Then, the Canes raced out to a 25-point lead against Florida State, which resulted in this gem of a tweet from Hurricanes NIL booster extraordinaire John Ruiz, who, thanks to a NCAA NIL Hammer, had a bad week.
FS who? pic.twitter.com/9hXs7woOBs
— John H. Ruiz, CEO LifeWallet and Attorney at Law (@JohnHRuiz) February 25, 2023
Things went poorly in the second half, as the Seminoles found their footing pushing tempo, picking up their ball pressure, and punishing a Nijel Pack-less Miami to the tune of a monster run to hand the Hurricanes their first home loss of the season. A Quad 4 loss, this is the type of defeat that costs you a seed line on Selection Sunday. It also may have cost the Hurricanes a regular season ACC crown and the 1 seed in Greensboro. Ouch.
2. Duke (21-8, 12-6)
The Blue Devils were dominant Saturday, smashing visiting Virginia Tech 81-65 and shooting a ruthlessly efficient 57% from the field. They also saw the best game from Dereck Lively II since his breakout game in the UNC win. Lively had 13 points, 7 rebounds and rejected 3 shots, giving Duke rim protection to go with efficient offense. Starting the game with a thunderous dunk never hurts, either.
Dereck Lively II ya está empezando a demostrar porque fue el mejor recluta del High School de está camada.pic.twitter.com/ERFpNjGApS
— NCAA 🇨🇱🏀 (@TreNCAAChile) February 26, 2023
Duke is looking like a team peaking at the right time, and playing close to Durham in the ACC Tournament, they may quietly be the favorites to cut down the nets in Greensboro.
1. Pittsburgh (21-8, 14-4)
The Panthers surged to the top of the power rankings this week after comfortably dispatching Georgia Tech and Syracuse to seize the ACC lead as the season hits the final week. Win out and the Panthers are the 1 seed in Greensboro. That’s quite a turnaround for a program most preseason prognosticators thought would be searching for a new head coach come March. Blake Hinson continues to be at the center of everything, scoring 22 points and grabbing 6 rebounds while coming off the bench in the 99-82 rout of Syracuse on Saturday. When Hinson is right, the Panthers are extremely tough to beat. In the midweek win over Georgia Tech, Jeff Capel III showed his team’s depth is improving too, as Federiko Federiko continued his offensive uptick, scoring 14 points to go along with seven rebounds. Pitt can win the ACC regular season title with 2 wins this week, but they’ll guarantee themselves at least a top 3 seed in the ACC Tournament with just 1 win. What a tremendous story.