With a multitude of basketball games taking place Wednesday night to round out the first full month of ACC play, things seem to be falling into place as March looms closer and closer. Teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 don’t seem to have to worry about their odds going forward, but at least six ACC teams are still fighting for their postseason lives. Many games in the next week pit these bubble teams against one another, and the unfortunate lesson both Florida State and Syracuse learned most recently is that any team can win any game in what has been the most competitive conference in the NCAA in recent years.
1. Virginia (21-1, 10-0 ACC) (AP Poll: No. 2)
This Cavaliers team is light years ahead of the unit that dropped its one and only game to West Virginia back on Dec. 5. A win against Duke in which the Blue Devils only managed to score 63 points—an impressive feat in itself—marked the first time in 18 games that UVA allowed more than 61 points and solidified its position at the top of the conference for at least another week.
2. Duke (19-3, 7-3) (AP Poll: No. 4)
Failing to beat UVA at home certainly doesn’t vault Duke into the top spot of the ACC, but playing the Cavaliers down to the wire is nothing for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and Co. to hang their heads over. The Blue Devils followed a tough two-point road loss with a 22-point demolition of the Irish. All five starters managed to reach double figures in the scoring column, and freshman Gary Trent Jr. recorded his first career double-double.
3. Clemson (18-4, 7-3) (AP Poll: No. 20) ↑ 1
The Tigers were able to come away with a road win against Georgia Tech and an upset win over North Carolina in the span of three days, scoring an average of 74 points that more than doubled a 36-point effort just a week earlier against UVA. With games against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh—the two bottom teams in the conference at the moment—the Tigers are poised for another solid week.
4. North Carolina (16-7, 5-5) (AP Poll: No. 19) ↓ 1
As the Tar Heels fall in the national rankings, so too do they fall in the ACC standings. Now tied for seventh in the conference after losses to North Carolina State and Clemson, UNC has dropped to .500 in its first 10 ACC games as defending national champions. A win against No. 4 Duke in the coming week would be an impressive turnaround, but with a 2-4 record versus ranked opponents this season, a Tar Heel victory seems unlikely.
5. Miami (16-5, 5-4)
The Hurricanes made school history by drilling 17 three-pointers against Florida State, but still couldn’t find a way to get the win in overtime. Fortunately for Miami, it was able to rebound—literally—against Pittsburgh, recording 39 boards against the Panthers in a 12-point win. The only area the Hurricanes really need to worry about right now is their free throw shooting—they currently shoot an ACC-worst 65.4 percent from the charity stripe.
6. Louisville (16-5, 6-2)
An expected loss to UVA is another reminder of how the Cardinals have struggled on the road this year. Luckily for Louisville, it now plays three straight in the KFC Yum! Center, where they have just one loss all season. Matchups against FSU, Syracuse, and Georgia Tech will be critical for the future of Louisville basketball—a team that despite recording just one rejection against UVA still stands at second in the nation in blocks per game.
7. Virginia Tech (16-6, 5-4) ↑ 3
With an overtime win against Boston College, the Hokies are now winners of their last three games and have reached the 80-point mark in a whopping seven-straight contests. After starting off 0-2 in ACC play, Virginia Tech is making a run at the tournament, and with lots of games against top tier teams left on its schedule, there will be plenty of opportunities to add more wins to its postseason resume.
8. Florida State (16-6, 5-5) ↓ 1
A statement win against Miami pushed the Seminoles win streak to three, but a loss to Wake Forest on the road summed up what’s been a tough season away from home. FSU has a 1-4 record outside the Tucker Center, and with four more road games this season against teams vying for tournament bids, things are not looking promising in Tallahassee.
9. Syracuse (15-6, 4-4)
Two conference road games in four days proved to be too much for the Orange to overcome, and Syracuse saw its scoring average dip below 70 for the first time all season. The Orange finished its four-game stretch against teams in the bottom half of the ACC standings at 3-1, but will now play opponents with a winning record in the conference in all but one of its final nine games.
10. North Carolina State (15-7, 5-4) ↑ 2
After a scare against Pittsburgh last week, N.C. State all but confirmed its status as a legitimate conference threat by beating rival UNC on the road. The Wolfpack has a 3-1 record against top-10 teams this season and can boast the best record among all other North Carolina teams in the conference, thanks to wins over Duke, Wake Forest, and UNC so far this year. All the while, sophomore Omar Yurtseven has been on a tear, scoring at least 16 points in four-straight games.
11. Notre Dame (13-9, 3-6) ↓ 3
After five-consecutive single-digit losses in conference play, the Irish were flat-out embarrassed on the road against Duke. The non-conference schedule proved to be relatively easy for Notre Dame, which won its first five games by an average of 29 points, but now that lack of competition seems to be taking its toll in close games. It has become harder and harder to believe that injures haven’t had a dire effect on a team that beat then-No. 6 Wichita State earlier this season.
12. Boston College (13-9, 3-6) ↓ 1
The Eagles find themselves on a three-game skid for the first time all season. BC hasn’t figured out a way to win close games as of late: The last three contests that the Eagles have played that have been decided by five points or fewer have all been losses, and head coach Jim Christian’s team will need to find the clutch mentality it had earlier in the year if it wants to finish the season on a high note. Holding onto the ball will be important, too: After Jerome Robinson coughed up the ball seven times against VTech, the Eagles are now tied for the third-worst turnover rate in the conference.
13. Georgia Tech (11-11, 4-5)
A win over Syracuse breathed life back into a struggling Yellow Jackets team, but the fact remains that the team simply isn’t as talented as it’s been in years past. GT has made 21 fewer three pointers than any other team in the ACC, and even though star guard Josh Okogie has scored at least 16 points in four-consecutive games—only one of which ended in a win—the results just haven’t been there for the team as a whole.
14. Wake Forest (9-13, 2-8)
Although the Demon Deacons’ tournament hopes have essentially been put to bed, they proved Wednesday night that they can still play the role of spoiler. After their losing streak was extended to seven games with a 19-point loss to Louisville, Wake Forest used clutch late-game free throws from Doral Moore—who was shooting a mere 45 percent from the line coming into the game—to upset FSU at home.
15. Pittsburgh (8-15, 0-10)
The Panthers have not had a worse start to the conference slate in school history. The last time they lost 10-straight conference games came in the 1992-93 season during the days of the Fab Five. As far as statistics go, Pittsburgh is last place in the conference in terms of points, rebounds, steals, and turnovers per game, as well as field goal percentage and offensive efficiency. Western Pennsylvanians are still grieving the loss of their beloved Steelers, and the Panthers are doing very little to remedy the pain.
Featured Image by Nicole Chan / Heights Editor