Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
So I finally found my way out of the snowy winter doldrums (unlike the Tar Heels) – and the 67 feet of snow around here – in time to give you the latest ACC update. We’ll try to keep the same categories for the teams as last time, based on their postseason prospects: Definite Dancers, Probably Safe, Bubbly, NIT-picking, and CBI-Dreaming.
ACC POWER RANKINGS (record after games of Sunday, Feb. 14)
1. Duke (21-4, 9-2)
RESUME: The Blue Devils only served to enhance their resume over the last two weeks, going 4-0, with three of those coming in impressive fashion. Oddly, the one close game wasn’t at UNC or vs. Georgia Tech, but at Boston College. I know BC is struggling this year, but I’ll give the Devils a pass on that one. The trip to Boston is a tough one, and it became the biggest game of the year on a campus that doesn’t really care about much (sorry for my anti-BC biterness this week – reasoning later on).
FUTURE: Last time out, I said Duke was looking like a #4 or #5 seed. But barring a few bad losses, or an early exit from the conference tourney, Duke should get a #2 or maybe #3 seed. As for the rest of the slate, I only see one real challenging game: March 3 at Maryland. Duke should finish with 27 wins and a 13-3 league mark – not too shabby.
2. Wake Forest (18-5, 8-3)
RESUME: Welcome to the upper tier, for now. Wake posted four wins over the last two weeks, including a testing road win at surging Virginia and convincing home wins over Boston College and (now struggling) Georgia Tech. The Deacons are playing well – thanks largely to guard Ishmael Smith — but they still could defend a little better. Wake is second-to-last in the ACC in points allowed per game at 67.6, and dead last in assist/turnover ratio – meaning their guards need to take better care of the ball, and the defense could stand to put on some more pressure.
FUTURE: A few more wins could get Wake into a top-4 seed, and all five contests left on the slate are very winnable. Watch out for a hot Deacons team as March rolls around…
3. Georgia Tech (17-8, 5-6)
RESUME: The Jackets are really struggling to score of late, failing to break 70 in three of their last four – all losses. The game at Duke was never close, and the game at Miami is not a game a top-tier team should lose. I’ll forgive the loss at Wake Forest, but even Tech’s most-recent win – a 2-point home win over N.C. State – was too close for comfort. Derrick Favors seems to be struggling to find his shot of late, and is being replaced by another freshman whose dad was really good at NBA Jam: Glen Rice Jr.
FUTURE: Last time out, I said Tech’s trip to Duke would tell us a lot, and it told us this team’s not ready. What will Saturday’s trip to Maryland tell us about the Jackets?
4. Maryland (17-7, 7-3)
RESUME: The Terps move up from No. 5 to No. 4, and are a near-lock for the dance, but I’m hesitant to boost them into the “Definitely Dancing” category. When you’re a presumptive #8 or #9 seed, a mini-skid could put you back on the bubble again. I’d still like to see Maryland win a truly tough road game, considering the Terps struggled mightily at Clemson and Duke in the last few weeks.
FUTURE: After an easy win Monday night against Virginia, Maryland really doesn’t face a tough road test until the season finale in Charlottesville. But, they still have to face Duke, Clemson and Georgia Tech at home. I’m guessing an optimistic 5-2 finish for Maryland, which would make them a safe bet for a top-8 seed in the Big Dance.
5. Clemson (18-7, 6-5)
RESUME: Yes, I know the Tigers beat Maryland, so how do they fall behind the Terps? Four losses out of five didn’t help, including one at Boston College, and home wins over Florida State and Miami don’t exactly send my heart a-flutter. They’ll be in the dance, but for some reason, I see the Tigers as the most vulnerable ACC team in the first round of the tourney.
FUTURE: After hosting Virginia Saturday, Clemson still has to go to Maryland, Florida State and Wake Forest, and they host Georgia Tech. I see 2, maybe 3 losses in there. Does a team that goes 8-8 in a weak ACC really impress you that much when it comes time to fill out a bracket? Me neither.
6. Florida State (16-5, 4-3)
RESUME: Two wins over Georgia Tech, including one on the road, stand out as highlights of the season for the Seminoles so far. While the wins might not be the impressive, FSU’s best attribute right now is a lack of bad losses. A home loss to NC State might be the worst of the bunch, but losses at Florida, Ohio State, Maryland and Duke aren’t anything to worry about.
FUTURE: Three home games out of the next four set up well for FSU, including Maryland on Thursday and Miami on Saturday. FSU needs to stand tall in Tallahassee to stay in this semi-safe tier.
7. Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3)
RESUME: Virginia Tech took advantage of a home-heavy slate the last few weeks to nearly lock up a dance card. I’m leaving the Hokies in the “Bubbly” level for now though, because they have been too moody to trust this season. The loss at Miami isn’t a great one, but they bounced back with four average to above-average wins: UNC, Clemson, Virginia and at N.C. State. While I may not really be feeling Clemson come tourney time, I could see a surprise Sweet 16 for the Hokies with the right matchups…
FUTURE: Tech has three home games (Wake Forest, Maryland, N.C. State) and three on the road (Duke, BC, Georgia Tech). They really need to win two of three at home and could use the same on the road. I’m seeing a home loss to Maryland and road loss at Duke. The season finale at Georgia Tech could be a toss-up depending on where the teams are in the standings.
8. Virginia (14-9, 5-5)
RESUME: As of my last report, I was high on the Cavaliers, and assumed they’d climb up a tier this time around. But two losses to Virginia Tech and a loss to Wake Forest and Maryland each were not balanced out by wins over the lackluster N.C. schools.
FUTURE: Right now, Lunardi has Virginia among his first eight out, while our resident bracketologist doesn’t even mention the Cavs. A surprise win over Clemson (2/20), Duke (2/28), or Maryland (3/6) in the next few weeks would help. I still think the ACC could get eight teams, but the Cavs are one team who will likely be rooting for the favorites to win all the smaller conference tourneys.
9. Miami (17-8, 3-8)
RESUME: This is where it starts to pain me to even mention teams as playing postseason games. The fact that Miami will play in the NIT is another reason to HATE the idea of a 96-team Big Dance. Yes, the Canes beat Wake, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but they won all three of those at home. Miami has TWO road wins this year: Stetson and Pepperdine. Wake me when it’s over, please.
FUTURE: Looking at what’s left, it’s possible Miami could finish the regular season with as many as 21 wins, possibly finishing off the most unimpressive 20-win season in history.
10. North Carolina (14-11, 3-7)
RESUME: Barring a miracle run in Greensboro, the NCAA Tourney is going to be missing a familiar shade of blue this season, and I’m here to tell you that the world will go on. If they play an NIT game in Chapel Hill, and no one is there to care, did it really happen?
FUTURE: UNC should beat Miami at home, and might win at Boston College on Saturday, but that’s all I’m seeing. They might make the NIT as a good story and extra TV ratings, but that’s about it.
11. N.C. State (14-12, 2-9)
RESUME: Does a resume even matter in this case? Sure, they had a few heartbreakers earlier in the year, but the Wolf Pack need a makeover on both ends of the floor.
FUTURE: One win, maybe two left on the schedule (BC at home, maybe at Miami).
12. Boston College (12-13, 3-8)
RESUME: The Eagles put in a valiant effort against Duke last weekend, but failed to make me look like a genius in my picks.
FUTURE: A home win over North Carolina would be nice, but it’s just playing out the string now.
CRYSTAL BALL TIME…
So my perfect record in Upset Specials fell by the wayside, as did my hopes of a Beanpot Hockey championship for my alma mater. But BC’s gotta win something this year, right?
OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 13-7
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 3-1
HOCKEY RECORD: 0-1
LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS
GEORGIA TECH at DUKE
My Prediction: Duke by 4
Actual Result: Duke by 19
MARYLAND at FLORIDA STATE
My Prediction: Maryland by 2
Actual Result: Maryland by 4
NORTH CAROLINA at MARYLAND
My Prediction: Maryland by 6
Actual Result: Maryland by 21
LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS
NORTH CAROLINA at VIRGINIA TECH
My Prediction: UNC by 3
Actual Result: Virginia Tech by 4
DUKE at BOSTON COLLEGE (UPSET SPECIAL)
My Prediction: Boston College by 2
Actual Result: Duke by 3
BEANPOT HOCKEY FINAL: BOSTON COLLEGE vs. BOSTON UNIVERSITY
My Prediction: BU 4, BC 2
Actual Result: BC 4, BU 3 (can’t win ’em all)
THIS WEEK’S PICKS (Upset special in italics)
WAKE FOREST at VIRGINIA TECH, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Wake Forest knocks the Hokies closer to the bubble. Wake Forest by 6.
FLORIDA STATE at VIRGINIA, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPNU). Virginia needs this one to stay in the discussion. Virginia by 3.
NORTH CAROLINA at BOSTON COLLEGE, Saturday, Noon (CBS). I’m including this one only because it’s on national TV. Boston College by 5.
GEORGIA TECH at MARYLAND, Saturday, 2 p.m. Maryland makes sure the Jackets remain in a late-season free fall. Maryland by 3.
VIRGINIA TECH at DUKE, Sunday, 7:45 p.m. (FSN). I was close last week with my BC over Duke upset special. So I’m trying another one against the Devils. Virginia Tech by 2.