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 (21-5, 10-4)
This week: at Miami, Monday; vs. North Carolina, Saturday
Why the Cavaliers at No. 1, instead of UNC? Because losing in that close game on the road against Duke isn’t as bad as losing the way UNC did to Duke last week.
2. North Carolina (22-5, 11-3)
This week: at N.C. State, Wednesday; at Virginia, Saturday
Up, down, steady – the Tar Heels were all of those things at times last week. The dominant win against Miami repaired a lot of the damage done in that Duke loss, though.
3. Louisville (21-6, 10-4)
This week: at Pittsburgh, Wednesday; at Miami, Saturday
If the Cardinals were eligible for the NCAA tournament, they could have really made a move up this week in regards to their seeding. Alas.
4. Duke (20-7, 9-5)
This week: vs. Florida State, Thursday; at Pittsburgh, Sunday
Just in case you’d forgotten how masterful of a coach Mike Krzyzewski is, there’s Duke’s 74-73 victory at UNC to provide a reminder.
5. Miami (21-5, 10-4)
This week: vs. Virginia, Monday; vs. Louisville, Saturday
Nothing like a home date with Virginia on Monday night to help you move on quickly from a 25-point loss at UNC.
6. Notre Dame (18-8, 9-5)
This week: at Wake Forest, Wednesday; at Florida State, Saturday
The scheduling gods rewarded Notre Dame with the easiest closing stretch of any of the ACC’s contenders and how do the Fighting Irish repay the gift? With a home loss against Georgia Tech on Saturday.
7. Pittsburgh (19-7, 8-6)
This week: vs. Louisville, Wednesday; vs. Duke, Sunday
Panthers ended a three-game losing streak with a shaky overtime win against Wake Forest and then followed that up with a resume-bolstering road victory at Syracuse.
8. Clemson (16-11, 9-6)
This week: at Georgia Tech, Tuesday
Game at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night is almost a must-win for the Tigers’ NCAA tournament hopes.
9. Syracuse (18-10, 8-7)
This week: vs. N.C. State, Saturday
Orange needs victories in two of its final three – against N.C. State, at UNC and at Florida State – to feel good about their NCAA tournament chances heading into the ACC tournament.
10. Virginia Tech (14-13, 6-8)
This week: at Boston College, Tuesday; at Wake Forest, Sunday
The Hokies continue to scrap and claw, and they’re one of those less-talented-but-hungry teams that no one will want to play in the ACC tournament.
11. Georgia Tech (15-12, 5-9)
This week: vs. Clemson, Tuesday; at Boston College, Saturday
Brian Gregory deserves some credit. His Yellow Jackets, who have won three out of four, didn’t fold after 2-8 start in conference play.
12. Florida State (16-11, 6-9)
This week: at Duke, Thursday; vs. Notre Dame, Saturday
What happened to the Seminoles? Four consecutive losses – the past two against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have all but erased Florida State’s NCAA tournament chances.
13. N.C. State (14-13, 4-10)
This week: vs. North Carolina, Wednesday; at Syracuse, Saturday
The Wolfpack has been plenty respectable since that 1-7 conference start and Cat Barber has been getting more help lately, too.
14. Wake Forest (10-16, 1-13)
This week: vs. Boston College, Feb. 21; vs. Notre Dame, Wednesday; vs. Virginia Tech, Sunday
The Deacons ended their long losing streak with a dominant performance against Boston College on Sunday night – and in the process might have erased the Eagles’ best chance at a conference victory.
15. Boston College (7-19, 0-13)
This week: at Wake Forest, Feb. 21; vs. Virginia Tech, Tuesday; vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday
After a 74-48 loss at Wake Forest on Sunday night, the Eagles are running out of chances to break through with their first ACC victory.
1. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the ACC’s best team up for debate.
Is it UNC? Virginia? Louisville? Somebody else? And another question: When’s the last time the best team in the ACC was so debatable this late in the season?
Last year there was debate between Duke and Virginia, though the Blue Devils were clearly the more talented team – which showed in March (and early April). This season seems much more muddled.
UNC’s best, it seems, is a notch above anyone else’s. But the Tar Heels often have difficulty delivering their best. Virginia has been consistent during the past month but the Cavaliers might have a lower ceiling than the Tar Heels.
Louisville is gritty, and tough, but the Cardinals won’t be able to prove themselves in a tournament setting.
2. Kudos to Roy Williams for setting the record straight.
If you missed it, Williams, the UNC coach, blasted CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb on Saturday for suggesting that Williams might be considering retiring – in which case, Gottlieb suggested, Hubert Davis could be in line to take over at UNC.
Speculation about Williams’ future isn’t new, to be sure, and on some levels it would make sense if he retired sooner rather than later. But there’s been no indication whatsoever that he’s considering it. In fact, the opposite is true – Williams has insisted that he’s not close to retiring.
In refuting Gottlieb’s speculation, Williams provided some comedic gold, too, with mention of that time Gottlieb, as an Oklahoma State guard, wore his shorts backward during a 1999 game at Kansas. “Shorts on backward, shorts on backward,” Williams said Saturday, mimicking the Kansas crowd that day. Funny stuff.
3. A note to the ACC: Fix the schedule, please
It’s difficult to put together a balanced, fair schedule for 15 teams – especially since one team is going to be “off,” and without a conference game, during the middle of the week and on weekends.
But the ACC could adhere to a couple of rules to make the unbalanced schedule fairer. For one, try to keep some semblance of balance between the front and back of the schedule. UNC’s schedule, for instance, was significantly easier in January than it has been since.
Another should-be rule: when teams are scheduled to play twice, those games should be divided between the first and second half of the schedule. Duke and UNC, for instance, play twice in their final six games. That should be avoided.