Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
We’ve waited months now for the bulk of the ACC to give us some excitement – and this week, it delivered in a big way. Upsets, big wins, surprising losses, we had it all. Now, if only I can find a way to wrap it up into a semi-readable package.
ACC POWER RANKINGS (records as of Wednesday morning, Jan. 20):
1. Duke (15-2, 3-1)
PAST: What do great teams do when faced with a tough loss? They bounce back with back-to-back 20-point wins. The Blue Devils let Boston College hang around for a half before rolling the Eagles, 79-59, then took care of Wake Forest in a 90-70 win. The Plumlee brothers man-handled the Wake frontcourt, with Miles Plumlee going for 19 and 14, while brother Mason scored 11 points. If there was one flaw in this one for Duke, it was letting the Deacons get back into a game they had no business in. Wake actually tied the game at 55-55 before Duke finished the game with a 35-15 run.
FUTURE: After two home games last week, Duke hits the road to face N.C. State Wednesday and Clemson on Saturday. Wednesday’s game should be pretty simple, but Saturday’s game will be a huge test for Duke. With ESPN College Gameday in town, the folks at Clemson will be revved up beyond belief for the 9 p.m. start. A fast start by Duke, however, could end the Tigers’ hopes.
2. Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-2)
PAST: Had Tech not lost at Virginia to start the week, the No. 2 spot would’ve been a gimme. But they still move up because a road win in Chapel Hill is just that impressive. A win in and of itself would’ve been impressive, but when you have the heart to post a road win in the final minute after blowing a 20-point lead, you deserve at least a week at No. 2.
FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win over Clemson, Tech heads south to face Florida State in Tallahassee on Sunday. Surprisingly, this could be my pick for upset of the week. But you’ll have to read more to find out.
3. North Carolina (12-6, 1-2)
PAST: Calm down, Chapel Hill. Yes, I know your Tar Heels have left the top 2 for the first time this year. Do I think Georgia Tech has better post-season prospects than UNC? Probably not. But for now, No. 3 is where the Heels belong. Losses to Clemson and Georgia Tech are nothing to really be ashamed of, but this slight slide is more about overall body of work. More on that later.
FUTURE: I don’t doubt that UNC will turn things around, beginning with Wednesday’s home game against Wake Forest. This is a decent matchup, but I expect UNC to take out some frustrations on the Deacons. Oddly, UNC has the weekend off before heading to N.C. State next week.
4. Clemson (15-4, 3-2)
PAST: Even with a loss to Georgia Tech Tuesday, Clemson deserves this two-spot boost from last week. The home win over Clemson was incredibly convincing, and the road win at N.C. State is nothing to brush off, especially with the anticipated letdown after the win over the Heels. Trevor Booker finally seems to be figuring out how to take over games when he’s called upon, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC.
FUTURE: Saturday’s home date with Duke might be the most important game at Littlejohn in recent memory. I know it’s a top-5 team coming to town, but if Clemson wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, this is a game they have to win. And please, Tiger fans, I’m begging you: don’t rush the court if you win.
5. Wake Forest (12-4, 2-2)
PAST: The overtime win against Maryland was nice, and the Deacons showed some heart in the loss at Duke, but I still don’t know what to think of this team. Their four losses are all to above-average or elite teams (Purdue, William & Mary, Miami, Duke), but I still find myself underwhelmed when I watch the Deacons play.
FUTURE: Now, that could all change based on Wednesday’s performance at UNC. As I mentioned above, I’m predicting a solid UNC win here, but the Deacons could still show me something, even in a loss. Wake hosts Virginia on Saturday in game that looks much tougher than it did a few weeks ago.
6. Virginia (12-4, 3-0)
PAST: Well, hello there, Cavaliers! Welcome to the top half of our rankings, and an unheard of four-spot jump in one week. I wasn’t really taking Virginia seriously for a while, but after a road win at N.C. State and home wins over Georgia Tech and Miami (convincingly), it’s hard to ignore the Cavs now. Sylven Landesberg is emerging as one of the league’s major stars, and the Hokies are proving to be a well-coached, mature team that knows how to win close games. The two-point win over UNC-Wilmington was a little close for comfort, but I’ll let it slide.
FUTURE: So they’ve won at home, but can Virginia post a big-time road win? We’ll find out on Saturday when they head to Wake Forest. A win there, and Virginia won’t be able to sneak up on anyone anymore.
7. Virginia Tech (14-3, 1-2)
PAST: I really didn’t want to improve the Hokies’ spot this week. The win over Miami is looking less and less impressive, and a loss at Florida State didn’t help matters, but the rest of the mid-level teams were even more unimpressive this week. I was a Hokie believer a few weeks ago, but they still have to show me something – and soon.
FUTURE: The Hokies host Boston College Saturday, and better win convincingly to stay up this high.
8. Maryland (12-5, 2-1)
PAST: Maybe my preseason pick does have a little life, after all. The Terps recovered from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Wake Forest to post a convincing road win at Boston College. Now, the Eagles aren’t a great team, but a win in Chestnut Hill is nothing to laugh off.
FUTURE: After beating Longwood Tuesday night, Maryland hosts N.C. State on Saturday.
9. Miami (15-4, 1-4)
PAST: I had already planned to drop the Hurricanes to at least No. 8, but then they went and TOTALLY REDEEMED THEMSELVES by losing to Boston College on Tuesday. BOSTON COLLEGE! AT HOME! Everyone and their uncle ripped Miami’s early-season schedule and inflated record, and it was with good reason. The Hurricanes were thoroughly dominated by Virginia and Virginia Tech, then lost to the league’s worst team.
FUTURE: Miami has the weekend off after getting beaten by Boston College Tuesday night.
10. Florida State (14-4, 2-2)
PAST: The Seminoles lost at home to a desperate N.C. State team, then topped Virginia Tech by five.
FUTURE: FSU hosts Georgia Tech in a tough game on Saturday. Watch out for an upset there…
11. N.C. State (12-6, 1-3)
PAST: An impressive win at Florida State was followed up by a relatively impressive loss at home to Clemson. The Wolf Pack are still trying to find any sort of stride after more than a handful of heartbreaking losses.
FUTURE: The Pack is home to Duke on Wednesday and at Maryland on Saturday. A win in either game would be mighty impressive.
12. Boston College (11-8, 2-3)
PAST: The Eagles pulled out what looks now like a semi-impressive win at Miami. But considering Miami’s schedule, it won’t exactly boost their RPI. BC also kept it close for a half against Duke before showing their true stripes in the second half. They were then easily handled by Maryland at home on Saturday.
FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win at Miami, the Eagles head to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
BENEATH THE NUMBERS…
HOW GOOD IS UNC? My belief? Still very, very good. But, the question has to be asked at this point. Lots of people, including this blogger, praised the Tar Heels for their tough early-season schedule, but if you look at the seven toughest games on that schedule, you can’t help but notice the 2-5 record (and three double-digit losses):
- Ohio State (4-point win)
- Syracuse (16-point loss)
- Michigan State (7-point win)
- Kentucky (2-point loss)
- Texas (13-point loss)
- Clemson (19-point loss)
- Georgia Tech (2-point loss, at home)
Like I said, I still think UNC will be a force in the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, and with a young roster I think they still have some growing to do. But that record against good teams has gotta be keeping Roy Williams up at night.
HOW BAD IS MIAMI? The Hurricanes are proving to be what we thought they were, and are the poster children for all that is wrong with pre-conference scheduling for too many teams. If I hear one “pundit” try to use the old “20-win” threshold to determine NCAA bubble candidates, I will point to Miami, then scream.
CRYSTAL BALL TIME…
I’m not one to brag, but I’d like to point out my pick for upset of the week was Georgia Tech over North Carolina by two points in Chapel Hill. And what happened? The Jackets won by 2 POINTS! Thank you, thank you very much. That’s 2-for-2 on upsets this year, although staying perfect there might be a stretch, as I’m really going out on a limb this week.
OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 7-3
UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2-0
LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS
GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA
- My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
- Actual result: Georgia Tech by 2
MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST
- My prediction: Wake Forest by 9
- Actual result: Wake Forest by 2 (OT)
MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH
- My prediction: Virginia Tech by 10
- Actual result: Virginia Tech by 15
WAKE FOREST at DUKE
- My prediction: Duke by 6
- Actual result: Duke by 20
LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICK
NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON
- My prediction: UNC by 3
- Actual result: Clemson by 19
THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS
WAKE FOREST at NORTH CAROLINA, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
- UNC emerges after two tough losses and takes out its frustration on the Deacons: UNC by 11
BOSTON COLLEGE at VIRGINIA TECH, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
- Virginia Tech is too good to lose this one, and BC is too bad to win it: Tech by 4
VIRGINIA at WAKE FOREST, Saturday, 4 p.m. (RAYCOM)
- Wake is too good to lose twice in one week, right? But I’ll go out on a limb and say the Cavs stay hot: Virginia by 2
DUKE at CLEMSON, Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
- Clemson will be amped up for this one – maybe too amped up. Duke pulls it out late: Duke by 3
GEORGIA TECH at FLORIDA STATE, Sunday, noon (RAYCOM)
- My upset special of the week. Tech gets flustered by its No. 2 ranking in the RTC poll, and drops a close one: Florida State by 2