It’s North Carolina-Duke week, which means we’ve almost reached the halfway point of league play in the ACC.

As we wait for Saturday night and Round 1 of the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, all that is certain, outside of North Carolina being objectively great, is uncertainty. Another weekend of games didn’t do much to move the needle on the league from a national standpoint. Jon Rothstein is wrong, but when he’s sounding off on Twitter about the possibility the ACC is a 2-bid league, that’s a testament to just how damaged the league is from a perception standpoint, fair or no.

Still, this was a week of “close calls,” where an upset or two that almost was would have changed perceptions. To wit:

  • Florida State led North Carolina for the bulk of a game for the second straight time — but lost to the resilient Tar Heels yet again
  • Clemson was denied by a tough call and 2 huge Tyrese Proctor free throws at Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Syracuse lost its “perfect” home record, getting pasted in the Dome by Florida State
  • NC State rallied for overtime at Virginia, but lost a Quad 1 opportunity in overtime

Change 3 of these 4 results, and we are evaluating the résumés of multiple teams differently. Change all 4, and Syracuse is at least a bubble team. As it stands, everyone is chasing North Carolina (still) and there are lingering questions, at least from some in the national media, about whether Clemson will fall off the bubble entirely despite a non-conference victims list that includes wins over Boise State, TCU, South Carolina, and Alabama, four near-locks for the NCAA Tournament. What a time to be alive.

Let’s do a fresh set of Power Rankings, with movement in the middle the consistent theme this season.

15. Louisville (6-14, 1-8)

Last Week (LW): 15

Two more losses for Louisville, including a 17-point home loss to Virginia where the Cardinals managed just 13 points in the first half. The Kenny Payne era can’t end soon enough.

14. Georgia Tech (9-11, 2-7)

LW: 13

After a win over Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic at Christmas, the Ramblin’ Wreck were 8-3 with a win over Duke to open conference play. Yes, Lance Terry was out for the season with an injury, but Miles Kelly was balling and Baye Ndongo looked like an ACC Freshman of the Year candidate. The Yellow Jackets have won one game since, and played their worst hoops of the season this week, blown out at Virginia Tech over the weekend after losing another winnable home game to Pitt midweek. Damon Stoudamire is a terrific young basketball coach, but until this group starts to play defense (294th in defensive efficiency over their last 10 games, per Bart Torvik).

13. Notre Dame (7-13, 2-7)

LW: 14

Notre Dame moves up a spot based on “competitiveness.” As in — at least the Fighting Irish were competitive this week in close losses to Miami and Boston College. With a top 50 defense (42nd in KenPom), the Fighting Irish will likely compete all year. With an offense ranked 317th, they’ll also probably keep falling just short.

12. Boston College (12-8, 3-6)

LW: 12

The Eagles polished off a season sweep of rival Notre Dame over the weekend, winning 61-58 in South Bend despite Quinten Post fouling out after playing just 22 minutes. Devin McGlockton had 19 points in the win, capping a great week for the sophomore that saw him also post 19 points in a narrow loss at Virginia Tech midweek. A 2-game homestand this week could define whether Boston College is a NIT type team or bound to spend another postseason at home.

11. NC State (13-7, 5-4)

LW: 8

The Pack have now dropped 3 consecutive games after falling in a heartbreaker at Virginia and compounding that defeat with a lopsided loss at the JMA Wireless Dome this weekend. A 2-game homestand this week, beginning with a Quad 2 game against Miami, needs to be a 2-win homestand if State wants to remain in the bubble conversation as the calendar inches toward March.

10. Pitt (12-8, 3-6)

LW: 11

The Panthers handled business at Georgia Tech but fell too far behind at Miami, trailing by as many as 19 points before a late rally fell short. Jaland Lowe was spectacular in Coral Gables, with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but the Panthers have struggled to win on nights when Lowe’s fellow freshman, Carlton Carrington, does not play well.  Carrington was limited to just 4 points (and 0-for-5 3-point shooting) in the loss to the Canes. Another big road win would have put Pitt firmly back in the bubble conversation. Instead, they’ll need a home win over Wake Forest this week to stay in the conversation.

9. Miami (14-6, 5-4)

LW: 10

The Hurricanes pass the NCAA Tournament eye test and if they get healthy, should climb these rankings again. Norchad Omier’s ankle has healed, for example, which helped the Hurricanes vanquish both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh this past week.

Matthew Cleveland is the latest starter to face injury questions. He hurt his hip in the Notre Dame win and missed the victory over Pitt. At full strength, this is a terrific team. But will they get healthy again?

8. Syracuse (14-6, 5-4)

LW: 5

Perhaps Saturday Road fell too in love with the Orange after their impressive win over Miami moved Adrian Autry’s first Syracuse team to 10-0 at home. Perhaps Saturday Road is being too hard on the Orange after Florida State came into the JMA Wireless Dome and pushed the Orange around for 40 minutes midweek. Perhaps Syracuse’s defense will play as well on the road as it did in Saturday’s dominant win over NC State? There are plenty of questions around this Orange team, but two things are certain. One, they can guard. The Orange rank 31st in KenPom Defensive Efficiency and are a top 25 defense in their past 10 games. Second, Judah Mintz is inevitable.

Mintz followed up a 13 assist and poster dunk effort in the FSU loss with 20 points and 9 assists in the win over NC State. What a player.

7. Clemson (13-6, 3-5)

LW: 6

The Tigers’ nonconference résumé remains one of the nation’s best. But wow did it feel like a “berth clinching” win slipped away for Clemson late Saturday night at Duke. Was Tyrese Proctor fouled? There was certainly a lot of contact. There are also angles where it looks like it was initiated by Proctor against a vertical defender.

However you view it, Proctor hit both free throws and Clemson lost a game where PJ Hall, the Tigers’ All-American candidate, thoroughly outplayed Duke’s All-American candidate, Kyle Filipowski. The loss means the Tigers are just 3-5 in ACC play, thanks largely to erratic defense. Clemson ranks just 132nd nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency over their past 10 games, per Bart Torvik. Clemson is 4-6 in that span.

6. Virginia Tech (13-7, 5-4)

LW: 7

The Hokies have a 3-game win streak going after pounding Georgia Tech on Saturday and holding off Boston College midweek. A win against Duke at home tonight to cap a 3-game homestand would give the Hokies a signature résumé win that, along with the Iowa State win in the non-conference, will age like a fine wine on Selection Sunday.

5. Wake Forest (13-6, 5-3)

LW: 3

The Demon Deacons were blasted at North Carolina last Monday night and have had a week to think about how a second half lead in Chapel Hill turned into a 21-point defeat. Three games the Deacs shouldn’t lose are up next: at Pitt, Syracuse, at Georgia Tech. Finish 3-0 in those contests and Wake Forest might move out of the “First Four Out” status they occupy at and into the Field of 68.

4. Florida State (12-8, 6-3)

LW: 9 

Jamir Watkins has been special. The VCU transfer has brought scoring and the kind of toughness FSU’s great teams of the last decade were built upon to Tallahassee. When he’s good, as he was in the win at Syracuse, this team can beat anyone in the country.

When he struggles, as he did in the second half against North Carolina on Saturday, the Seminoles don’t have the pieces to overcome it. Florida State has just 1 win this season when Watkins scores in single figures, and his influence defensively to a team that now ranks 38th in KenPom defense a year after finishing a Leonard Hamilton low 239th in that category, is almost immeasurable.

3. Virginia (15-5, 6-3)

LW: 5

The Hoos held off NC State in Charlottesville and then routed Louisville in a “get well” game for their offense — err, sort of. On the bright side, Virginia shot 50% for the game, which has not happened often this season. Ryan Dunn also did this:

Dunn also had 6 blocked shots in the win over State, helping the Hoos stave off a furious Wolfpack rally.

Dunn’s emergence as a legitimate competitor to teammate Reece Beekman for ACC Defender of the Year will give Virginia a chance to win plenty of games down the stretch. Can Tony Bennett strum up enough offense to make the league’s best defense matter?

2. Duke (15-4, 6-2)

LW: 2

A win is a win? That has to be the refrain for the Blue Devils, who have limped into Carolina week with a comeback win at home over lowly Georgia Tech, a home loss to Pitt, and another near home loss this weekend to Clemson over the past 2 weeks. Jeremy Roach came off the bench due to injury in the Clemson win, and his health continues to be a concern as the Blue Devils ready for North Carolina’s magnificent backcourt of RJ Davis and Elliot Cadeau. The good news? Mark Mitchell was spectacular against Clemson, scoring 13 points, consistently getting to the free throw line, and knocking down a floor spacing triple. When Duke is a complete, healthy unit, they can beat good teams like Clemson even when Filipowski has a rough night, as he did Saturday. They’ll need this supporting cast, plus a good Flip to beat a great one in UNC.

1. North Carolina (17-3, 9-0)

LW: 1

The Tar Heels rallied to win twice last week, once at home (Wake Forest) and once in a tough environment at Florida State. In both wins, Harrison Ingram was the glue guy difference-maker. Ingram had 10 points and 14 rebounds against Wake, and his 13-point, 17-rebound, 3-steal performance at FSU was a masterpiece in toughness. Ingram, a former 5-star recruit, has embraced the “glue guy” role in Chapel Hill and Saturday, picked up his 6th double-double in ACC play, a team-high.

“Harrison, he just checks so many boxes, shooting, posting up, passing, rebounding, [and] big plays,” coach Hubert Davis said. “He’s just really having a lot of fun out there.”

Ingram having fun doing the small things makes it easier for Tar Heels fans to enjoy RJ Davis doing the big things, like averaging 30 points over the course of 2 tough wins this week.

Davis heads into Duke week playing better basketball than any guard in America, and you could say the same about his team.