Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
ACC teams lost just three times in the last week – and all were interesting/entertaining games in their own right. Two losses were inevitable, thanks to a pair of conference games. The other was Texas-sized, in more ways than one.
ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Sunday, Dec. 20)
1. Duke (9-1, 0-0)
PAST: Let’s skip right over the gimme win over Gardner-Webb and move on to Saturday’s game with Gonzaga. The Zags were bad, that much is true. But some of Gonzaga’s 23.8% shooting percentage needs to be credited to a stifling Duke defense. Gonzaga came in averaging almost 80 points, and were held to half that. The win was enough to put Duke atop our rankings, but the Devils still need to show a little more – because Gonzaga was just that bad.
FUTURE: No games this week.
2. North Carolina (8-3, 0-0)
PAST: The Tar Heels have been getting plenty of credit here for playing some real pre-conference foes, and that didn’t change on Saturday, when UNC faced No. 2 Texas in the monstrosity that is Cowboys Stadium. There was also more than enough up-and-down, fast-paced hoops to keep any hoops fan happy, just not the “W” to keep Heels fans happy. More on this game later.
FUTURE: UNC hosts Marshall on Tuesday.
3. Wake Forest (8-2, 1-0)
PAST: The Deacons survived a classic trap trip to UNC Wilmington, then took care of North Carolina State at home on Sunday. Wake freshman C.J. Harris continues to chip in for the Deacons, earning his third ACC Rookie of the Week honors with 10 points and four boards against N.C. State, and 11 points against UNC Wilmington.
FUTURE: The Deacons complete their “N.C.” trifecta this week when they travel to Greensboro to face UNC-Greensboro.
4. Georgia Tech (8-2, 0-1)
PAST: Tech dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Florida State, 66-59, that could come back to bite them come seeding time. Sure, the Seminoles are a solid team, but you can’t lose home conference games like that. Especially in your ACC opener.
FUTURE: Tech hosts always-tough Kennesaw State on Tuesday.
5. Florida State (10-2, 1-0)
PAST: The Seminoles jump up two spots this week after going 3-0 with wins over Georgia State, Auburn, and the most impressive of all: AT Georgia Tech. No, FSU doesn’t leap past the Yellow Jackets just yet (I still think Tech is the better overall team), but the Seminoles sure improved their tourney resume in a week that saw most everyone else take a cupcake break.
FUTURE: The Cupcakes come now, however, for FSU, which faces Tennessee-Martin, Alabama A&M and Texas A&M-Corpus Christie in its next three games.
6. Clemson (10-2, 0-0)
PAST: The Tigers slip a spot, despite two wins this week over East Carolina and the College of Charleston. But they will have plenty of time to rise, especially if their defense continues to force an absurd 11.7 steals per game.
FUTURE: Clemson has two more cupcakes before a Jan. 3 date at Duke. The Tigers host Western Carolina on Tuesday.
7. Miami (12-1, 0-1)
PAST: Four cupcake wins, including a 20-point road romp at Stetson, likely didn’t reduce the sting of that one-point loss to Boston College earlier this month.
FUTURE: No games this week after Monday’s date with North Carolina A&T.
8. Virginia Tech (9-1)
PAST: Easy win over Charleston Southern doesn’t really help or hurt the Hokies this week. But junior Malcolm Delaney certainly is. He continues to dominate the league scoring stats, averaging 22 PPG, which ranks just outside the top 10 in the nation.
FUTURE: The golden Retrievers of UMBC come calling Tuesday night.
9. Maryland (6-3, 0-0)
PAST: All that Hawaiian sun must have worn the Terrapins out after the Maui Invitational, because Maryland has played just three games in all of December and hasn’t played since a win on Dec. 12.
FUTURE: Maryland hosts two gimmes this week in Winston-Salem State and Florida Atlantic.
10. N.C. State (8-2, 0-1)
PAST: The home loss to Wake Forest was no real crime, especially since the Wolfpack hung around most of the night. But if they want to move up in the rankings, the Pack will have to score a little more. They are averaging a league-worst 67.3 points – and that’s against the pre-conference cupcakes.
FUTURE: N.C. State does play the only real interesting game of the week in the ACC, as it heads to Arizona on Wednesday.
11. Virginia (5-4, 0-0)
PAST: After a game against UNC-Wilmington was snowed out, the Cavaliers had two full weeks between games going into Monday’s date with NJIT.
FUTURE: Wednesday against Hampton (corrected).
12. Boston College (7-3, 1-0)
PAST: The cruising win over Bryant wasn’t enough to get the Eagles out of the cellar. Not with home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island on the resume. Say it again: Harvard and Rhode Island.
FUTURE: BC hosts UMass Wednesday night, with the Minutemen coming off a solid win over Memphis on Saturday. Watch out for another in-state defeat.
WEEK THAT WAS…
- UNDER THE BIG TOP: Much has already been written about the UNC-Texas shootout/circus at The-House-That-Jerry-Built. The 103-90 Texas win proved that Roy Williams’ Tar Heels still have plenty to do on the defensive end, as UNC gave up 100 points in regulation for the first time in Williams’ tenure there. Does this mean that UNC is not good enough to reach the Final Four? Absolutely not. If there’s any team that needs time to find its identity, it’s this one, considering all the new faces. I may have bumped UNC out of the top spot this week (and I may think Roy Williams is a crybaby), but I still expect the Heels to rise back to the top of the ACC (notice how I’m already backing off my crazy Maryland prediction from earlier in the year).
- ACC-TUAL LEAGUE GAMES! Florida State’s dramatic overtime win over Georgia Tech was the first real key ACC game of the year, and the first real upset, as well (except for maybe BC over Miami). Is it January yet? I’m tired of seeing everyone beat up on UNC-Greensboro and Stetson.
- RAMBLING RANT OF THE WEEK: If I was a Duke fan who, you know, actually lived anywhere near Tobacco Road, I’d be growing real tired of what seems like 55 “home” games each year at Madison Square Garden. I know what it does for exposure, and mostly I know what it does for the wallet, but this is a team with one of the best – if not the best – homecourt advantage in the nation. Why the heck do they need to play in New York so much?
- BONUS RAMBLING RANT OF THE WEEK (Jerry Jones Edition): Like many college hoops fans, I am attracted to the game due to the atmosphere of a great college building. I haven’t attended a ton of raucous games, but I can tell you that the 2002 America East finaland games at the Palestra are among the top sporting events I’ve attended. So it kills me to see so many key games in March played in sterile football stadiums with half a million seats. I understand the money, and I know the Final Four has been in those buildings for years, but now we’re starting to see regional games, sub-regionals, and even regular season games played in huge buildings. I’ll take a bandbox gym any day.
WAITING IN THE TUNNEL…
GET YOUR SHOPPING DONE: There really isn’t any must-see TV this week in the ACC. Outside of N.C. State’s trip to Arizona on Wednesday night, you should have plenty of time to bake that doorstop of a fruitcake. And just think, waiting for you just after New Year’s? Another great season of ACC hoops. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!