The NCAA on Tuesday released its first RPI ratings as conference season kicks off across the country. The news is mixed for the ACC, but it definitely looks like six (maybe seven) ACC teams will be fighting for NCAA bids this year.
- Duke is tops in the land, and it’s probably not close. Between beating top-tier non-conference foes and Mike Krzyzewski’s “gaming” of the system with solid mid-majors at neutral sites (see: Davidson), Duke could probably sustain a loss or two (especially on the road) without dropping in the rankings. Right now the Blue Devils are as close to a lock for a one-seed as you can be in early January.
- Miami shockingly sits at #8 because of a perfect schedule: They haven’t lost at home, the teams they’ve lost to aren’t that bad, and they scheduled difficult enough (according to Jerry Palm, they have the third best strength of schedule in the country behind Duke and Colorado). That home win against Michigan State definitely helps a lot too, but props to Jim Larranaga for knowing how to schedule. Combine the high RPI and solid best win with the fact that the three losses came without Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson, and right now Miami feels pretty safe (assuming decent play in the ACC) come Selection Sunday.
- NC State rounds out the top tier for the ACC, sliding into the index at #15. Playing a decent schedule (Michigan — even with the loss — on the road helped greatly) has the Wolfpack in a good place. This team doesn’t have any marquee wins, though, which needs to change before Selection Sunday. Unfortunately, as you’re about to find out, there aren’t a ton of high-profile wins to be had in conference play (especially if you’re one of the high-profile teams).
- North Carolina is top-50 (#42 to be exact), but let’s be real: The Tar Heels aren’t shooting for a top-50 finish. That said, this team’s struggles away from home are going to be a serious hindrance to an elite RPI assuming they continue. North Carolina still isn’t really in danger of missing the NCAAs, but starting off conference play with an uninspired loss at Virginia wasn’t a great look (to be fair, Vegas had the Tar Heels as underdogs). The double-edged silver lining for the Tar Heels is that they have the hardest possible conference schedule, so there are several marquee wins available.