ACC Power Rankings: Blue Devils lead the way after Week 1
After nearly 8 months, college basketball returned last week. Even better? Full arenas returned, including a packed Madison Square Garden last Tuesday night for the Champions Classic. As always, Duke represented the ACC, and did so well, with a thrilling 79-71 win over No. 10 Kentucky. Is it too early to say that Duke, who last season missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995, is back? Perhaps. But they certainly have the makings of a team capable of competing for a championship in Mike Krzyzewski’s final season in Durham.
It wasn’t all roses for the ACC in Week 1. Two teams lost buy games on opening night, including No. 25 Virginia, which was embarrassed at home by Navy. This weekend saw other buy game “Ls,” including Furman snapping Louisville’s 59-game November home winning streak. Worse, the ACC lost one of its brightest stars in Week 1, with NC State’s sensational Manny Bates lost for the season with a shoulder injury after just 1 minute of basketball in the Wolfpack’s season-opening win over Bucknell. It’s a heartwrenching loss not just for Kevin Keatts’ squad, but ACC hoops fans everywhere.
Here are the ACC Power rankings after Week 1. Preseason rankings are here.
It was a brutal week for Jeff Capel’s program.
Not only did they lose a buy game to the Citadel– and it wasn’t close — they lost the program’s best recruit when high 4-star commit Judah Mintz decommitted on early Signing Day.
Mintz says he’s still considering Pitt, but he probably won’t if he watches them play. The Panthers were miserable against the Citadel and almost as dire in their 74-59 loss at West Virginia Sunday night.
14. NC State
Is it harsh to drop the Wolfpack down here after a 2-0 start? Probably.
But the loss of Bates changes the trajectory of North Carolina State’s season. The Wolfpack go from a team that was likely to at least challenge for an NCAA Tournament berth to one that will struggle to play any postseason basketball as they adjust to life without Bates and Devon Daniels and DJ Funderburk, the team’s top 2 scorers from a season ago.
Jim Larrañaga’s team was pushed by a very average Canisius on opening night and then lost a home game to in-state UCF Saturday. Yes, Johnny Dawkins has built a nice program in Orlando. But Larrañaga’s guys should be handling the Golden Knights on their home floor, and while it’s encouraging that Kam McGusty and Isaiah Wong combined for 48 points in the defeat, it’s very discouraging that the Canes gave up a ghastly 1.25 points per possession in the loss.
12. Wake Forest
A quality start for Steve Forbes’ team. The Demon Deacons cruised past William & Mary and then made it two for two with a win over Western Carolina. Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams averaged 27 points in the 2 games, a good sign for the Deacs hopes offensively this season. With three more winnable games on deck before a Black Friday tilt with Oregon State, Wake could start 5-0, building much-needed confidence for the tougher grind ahead.
11. Georgia Tech
Josh Pastner’s team was shellshocked at home on opening night by a Miami of Ohio that finished in the middle of the MAC a season ago. How did the Redhawks go about beating the ACC Tournament Champs? Mainly they just took care of the basketball. A year ago, the Jackets would turn opponents over at a high rate thanks to ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright and swarming point guard Jose Alvarado, who was a pest that could extend an offense. This year, the Jackets could muster only 7 turnovers opening night. The result? A 3 point defeat despite 26 points from Michael Devoe, the ACC Tournament MVP.
The Jackets did bounce back to wallop Stetson over the weekend, but laying an egg against a mediocre midmajor on opening night had to be a brutal disappointment for Georgia Tech.
10. Boston College
Earl Grant was one of the best hires of the offseason and while there’s a long way to go in Chestnut Hill, BC dominating the first three games of the Grant era is a positive sign. Demarr Langord Jr. led the way in all 3 games, another positive development, considering star Brevin Galloway is still nursing a knee injury he picked up in fall camp. There are better and bigger tests waiting this week, including a holiday tournament battle in Daytona Beach with Utah next Saturday. Win that one, and Grant will have a growing bandwagon of believers.
While Chris Mack serves his 6 game suspension, acting head coach Matt Pegues looked bewildered down the stretch in Louisville’s 80-72 loss to Furman Friday night. The Paladins can really shoot it, and plenty of coaches, midmajor or high major, would love to have Bob Richey as their head coach or running their offense. But good team or no, Louisville shouldn’t drop a buy game at the Yum Center in November ever, let alone in year four of the Mack regime.
Florida transfer Noah Locke had 20 points in the loss to Furman, nearly staving off the upset with his sweet shooting stroke. In the end, however, Louisville’s inability to get stops sealed their fate, as the Paladins rattled off a 12-0 run between the end of regulation and start of overtime, sealing their doom.
A date with Navy, who knocked off Virginia in Charlottesville last week, was played Monday night (after this writing).
What to make of Tony Bennett’s team laying a colossal egg on opening night against a service academy?
On the one hand, it’s just one game.
On the other hand, the Hoos looked so inept offensively that when Navy guard John Carter went 4-of-4 from 3 and had 16 first-half points, and when his team shot 8-of-12 from beyond the arc, it felt like the Midshipmen’s 7 point lead was 20 and that the Hoos would never come back, no matter how hard the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena urged them forward.
Virginia will clean things up on defense because that’s what Tony Bennett teams do.
But the Cavs look like they’ll desperately miss the shooting of Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, and Trey Murphy, and while point guard Kihei Clark makes plays, he’s not really a put the team on his back scorer. In other words, unless someone else steps up, this Virginia team may go as Armaan Franklin goes, and when the Indiana transfer and sharpshooter has a bad night (2-11 vs. Navy, with 1-7 from 3), the Cavs might also have a tough evening.
The Tigers started well with 2 wins, including a hard-fought 76-68 win over a good Wofford team on Friday night. It wasn’t sexy, but what Brad Brownell team ever is? PJ Hall, a former top 50, 4-star recruit out of burgeoning hoops power Dorman, was terrific in the win over the Terriers, scoring 22 points, collecting 8 rebounds, and getting to the free throw line at a high rate (7-10). Hall is supremely skilled offensively and has added accuracy to a 3-point jump shot, connecting on 4 of his first 6 attempts this season. If he can provide punch inside consistently, the Tigers will become more balanced in how they go about scoring points, and that could mean success for a team that is defending at a high level.
6. Notre Dame
The Irish opened their season late but it was a memorable opener thanks to freshman Blake Wesley. The 4 star guard and hometown hero dropped 21 points in front of his family and friends (Wesley grew up in South Bend) as the Fighting Irish cruised to a 16 point win over Cal-State Northridge.
Notre Dame’s lethal offensive balance was on display all night. The Irish connected on 11-of-27 3-point attempts, but also pounded the ball inside, getting 16 from Yale transfer Paul Atkinson.
There are still genuine rebounding concerns with this team (the Matadors out-rebounded the Irish 26-23), but they will score with ease against most anyone.
5. Florida State
The Seminoles looked like world-beaters at home in The Tuck against a Penn team that could win the Ivy League, winning 105-70 in classic Leonard Hamilton fashion: playing 10 guys 10 minutes or more, getting 38 points from their bench and seeing 4 players score in double figures.
But they were beaten at their own game by Florida in Gainesville on Sunday. The Gators outhustled, outrebounded, and physically bullied FSU in a 71-55 thrashing that snapped FSU’s 7-game win streak over their rival.
FSU will need more than it got last week from Caleb Mills, who managed just 2 points against the Gators and spent much of the Penn game trying to find himself offensively. Mills is too good to be sluggish all year — and once he gets going, the Noles will be fine. Still, you’d expect a more competitive performance at Florida than what we saw Sunday from an FSU team that starts a host of upperclassmen.
Year 46 of the Jim Boeheim era at Syracuse began with 2 wins, but none were as special as Tuesday’s victory over Lafeyette. All-American son Buddy scored 18 in the win over Lafeyette, but more rewarding, son Jimmy scored 18 as well in his first game for the Orange after transferring from Cornell.
— SLAM University (@slam_university) November 10, 2021
Jimmy Boeheim had the first 8 points for the Orange, who won by 34 and followed that victory up with a rout of a quality Drexel team on Sunday.
3. Virginia Tech
The Hokies clobbered Maine in their opening night buy game and then avoided rival Virginia’s fate against Navy on Friday night, cruising to a 20-point win. Virginia Tech isn’t ranked yet, but they should be, and considering they play a soft as Kleenex early season schedule that continued with a game against Radford Monday night, the good times should roll until they are tested with Feast Week contests against No. 11 Memphis and No. 20 Maryland.
2. North Carolina
Week 1 of the Hubert Davis era brought 2 wins but plenty for the Tar Heels to improve upon moving forward. Friday night’s win over Brown was especially scary, a back and forth affair where the Heels trailed by as many as 7 points and were behind at the under 8 media timeout before pulling away late.
That score would be frightening, but a deeper look at the boxscore and advanced stats shows just how well the Bears played. They turned the ball over only 5 times all night, tallied 13 team assists, shot 51% from the field and 37% from 3-point range and had 26 points of production from their bench. That makes it seem like the right reaction to that game is to praise Mike Martin’s team for playing so well and expect the Tar Heels to watch the video, be glad they won, and get better.
We knew Paolo Banchero could play. What we were less sure about was just how good some of his supporting cast might be. Trevor Keels was the first Blue Devil to resoundingly answer those questions, pouring in 25 points, including Duke’s only 3-pointer of the evening, to pace Duke’s big win over Kentucky in Madison Square Garden.
While Paolo Banchero was spectacular, Trevor Keels was definitely the story of the night in the Champions Classic. Emerged as Duke's primary creator and made great decisions operating out of ball screens all night. Will be in lottery conversations if this is the case all season. pic.twitter.com/tcPPvPmsAR
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) November 10, 2021
His 25 were the third most for a freshmen in their Duke debut ever, and if he and Banchero are going to trade star power all season, it will make Coach K’s final campaign a special one.
Duke has had special freshmen before: frequently. Keels’ performance felt different, though, because of how vital it was he produce. Paolo Banchero left the game with cramps and Wendell Moore was clearly hurt. No matter: with both those players off the floor and Duke’s narrow first-half lead evaporated, Keels led an 18-6 run to help the Blue Devils kill off the Kentucky comeback and salt away the basketball game.
It was also huge for Duke that its other freshman McDonald’s All-American, forward A.J. Griffin, played just 10 minutes off the bench. Griffin has been battling knee issues, and it may take him time to get in shape. Given this reality, the emergence of Keels as a big game, serve when ready freshman is immense, and may just separate Duke from the rest of the ACC.