Each week I’ll rank the ACC from best to worst. This isn’t a predicted order of finish but rather a reflection of where teams stand today. Records are current through games played on Sunday afternoon:
1. Virginia (19-4, 8-3)
This week: vs. Virginia Tech, Tuesday; at Duke, Saturday
Don’t look now but your favorite slow-it-down bunch has won six consecutive games, all of them by at least 14 points since that crazy finish in a win at Wake Forest on Jan. 26.
2. Louisville (19-4, 8-2)
This week: at Duke, Monday; at Notre Dame Saturday
Cardinals’ out-of-nowhere self-imposed postseason ban is among the biggest stories of the season, and it comes just in time for a tremendously difficult stretch that begins Monday.
3. North Carolina (19-4, 8-2)
This week: at Boston College, Tuesday; vs. Pittsburgh, Sunday
Toughness talk is tiresome, to be sure, but the reality is that the Tar Heels continue to lack it in tense moments against more formidable competition.
4. Miami (18-4, 7-3)
This week: vs. Pittsburgh, Tuesday; at Florida State, Sunday
Hurricanes have won five out of six since a two-game skid in mid-January, but outside of Duke, marquee victories are lacking.
5. Notre Dame (16-7, 7-4)
This week: at Clemson, Monday; vs. Louisville, Saturday
Fighting Irish showed some grit in comeback from 15 points down against UNC but now comes a fork in the road with a challenging week ahead.
6. Clemson (14-9, 7-4)
This week: vs. Notre Dame, Monday; vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday
No shame in losing on the road at Virginia and Florida State, which Clemson recently did, but losing at Virginia Tech – which the Tigers also did, on Saturday – is the kind of loss that really damages a bubble team’s NCAA tournament resume.
7. Duke (17-6, 6-4)
This week: vs. Louisville, Monday; vs. Virginia, Saturday
Blue Devils have won three of four but now begins perhaps the most brutal stretch any ACC team will face this season: games against Louisville, Virginia, UNC and Louisville again.
8. Florida State (16-7, 6-5)
This week: at Syracuse, Thursday; vs. Miami, Sunday
The Seminoles’ season seemed on life support not long ago after a 2-5 ACC start. They’ve won four straight since, but it gets tougher this week.
9. Pittsburgh (17-5, 6-4)
This week: at Miami, Tuesday; at UNC, Sunday
Panthers have lost four of the past seven, and this week, against Miami and UNC, feels like something of a make-or-break stretch.
10. Syracuse (16-8, 6-5)
This week: vs. Florida State, Thursday; at Boston College, Sunday
Remember when the Orange started conference play 0-4? Seems a while ago now given what has transpired since – six wins and an eight-point loss at Virginia.
11. Virginia Tech (13-11, 5-6)
This week: at Virginia, Tuesday
The pesky Hokies finally got another close one to go their way in a 60-57 victory against Clemson on Saturday, but now comes the rematch with Virginia, which Virginia Tech beat earlier this season.
12. Georgia Tech (12-11, 2-8)
This week: vs. Wake Forest, Wednesday; at Clemson, Saturday
Another long season in Atlanta, but Yellow Jackets should get a reprieve on Wednesday against Wake Forest.
13. N.C. State (12-12, 2-9)
This week: vs. Wake Forest, Saturday
It has been a struggle from the start for the Wolfpack, but at least Cat Barber makes the team worth watching, and especially lately.
14. Wake Forest (10-13, 1-10)
This week: at Georgia Tech, Wednesday; at N.C. State, Saturday
Eight consecutive losses for the Demon Deacons, who haven’t been competitive since losing at the buzzer against Virginia.
15. Boston College (7-16, 0-10)
This week: vs. UNC, Tuesday; vs. Syracuse, Sunday
Eagles’ best chance for an ACC victory will be on Feb. 21 at Wake Forest.
1. So, yes: I was wrong about Cat Barber
In perhaps the biggest and most notable upset of the college basketball season, I happened to be wrong about something. (I’m waiting to hear back from the Elias Sports Bureau on whether this has ever happened before.) Last week in this space I wrote that N.C. State guard Cat Barber could not yet be considered a lock for first-team All-ACC. I wrote that it was debatable. That was incorrect. Barber should be – and will be – a lock to make first-team, all-conference, and he’s putting himself in position for the ACC player of the year discussion. While it’s true that Barber has more scoring opportunities given the lack of help surrounding him, it’s also true that he has played as well as he has despite being the focal point of any defense N.C. State plays. Against double teams, against defenses designed to stop him, Barber has still scored at least 26 points in the Wolfpack’s past four games.
2. An ACC bubble team could well benefit from Louisville’s postseason ban
Louisville’s decision to self-impose a postseason ban could mean that the ACC doesn’t set a record for NCAA tournament bids this season. The league has never sent more than seven teams to the tournament, and it looked like eight ACC teams would make it this year. That’s still possible, though, because the Cardinals’ absence opens up a spot for a team that otherwise might not have gotten it. It could be good news for a team like Florida State or Pittsburgh or Clemson or Syracuse depending on where they wind up entering the ACC tournament. Ten ACC teams, including Louisville, have winning league records with a little more than a month left in the regular season.
3. We are indeed witnessing some slippage in officiating
You might have seen last week N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried’s criticism of officiating after N.C. State’s loss at Florida State. Gottfried said games aren’t being officiated now like they were earlier in the season, and he’s right. More physical play is creeping back in, and offenses don’t have the freedom, overall, that they did in November and December. College basketball was trending in a positive direction for a good while, though some slippage was probably inevitable. The question now is whether it can be reversed or if we’re headed for a March that doesn’t resemble what the sport looked like early in the season.