ACC Power Rankings: Virginia Tech Continues to Rise as Tournament Nears

With just three games remaining in the season, one would think that the postseason fate of ACC teams would be determined by now, but it’s clear just by digging a little deeper into the standings that things are far from decided. Some are still striving to lock up a top seed, while others are just hoping to have a pulse come March. Six teams have either eight or nine conference wins, and with the season coming to a close, this edition of the ACC Power Rankings is heavily focused on tournament possibilities.  

1) Virginia (25-2, 14-1 Atlantic Coast) (AP Poll: No. 1)

Rebounding from their loss to in-state rival Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers held Georgia Tech to just 24 points in the second half of a decisive victory at home. The win was head coach Tony Bennett’s 14th in the ACC this year, the third time he’s reached that mark in his nine-year tenure with Virginia. The last two times the team was able to accomplish that feat, it ended up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why it won’t be one again this year.

2) North Carolina (22-7, 11-5) (AP Poll: No. 10)

The Tar Heels are now one of the hottest teams in the conference and are the reason Duke remains in the three spot. During UNC’s six-game winning streak, it has scored an average of 88 points per game. Theo Pinson’s play has much to do with the recent run. The senior forward has seen his scoring increase in each game since the team’s loss to Clemson nearly a month ago. His 23 points versus Syracuse were a game-high, and it appears that Pinson will be one of the guys head coach Roy Williams will rely on heavily in the NCAA tournament.

3) Duke (23-5, 11-4) (AP Poll: No. 5)

A win over Clemson on the road this past Sunday wasn’t enough for the Blue Devils. Duke came out guns-blazing Wednesday night against Louisville, building a 17-point halftime lead on its way to a 26-point win. Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s implementation of a 2-3 zone has worked beautifully for his squad, and Grayson Allen is playing some of the best basketball of his career. The red-hot senior has scored an average of 23.8 points per game during his team’s current four-game winning streak.    

4) Virginia Tech (20-8, 9-6) ↑ 3

A loss to Duke last week was just a bump in the road for the Hokies. VTech has continued its stellar play down the stretch with wins over GT and No. 15 Clemson. Justin Robinson has reached double figures in 14 of the past 15 games, and his team now seems to be the most likely to join UVA, Duke, and UNC at the top of the conference. The Hokies’ matchup against Duke this Monday night will be a good one.  

5) Miami (19-8, 8-7)

An unexpected home loss to Syracuse had set the Hurricanes back a few paces, but a road win over Notre Dame puts them right back in the thick of things as the ACC tournament approaches. Home games against Boston College and Virginia Tech will be critical for Miami, as it is currently tied with both Florida State and Louisville with a 9-6 record in the conference.

6) Florida State (19-8, 8-7) (AP Poll: No. 25)

A win over lowly Pittsburgh allows the Seminoles to hold onto their place in the top 25, and games against North Carolina State, Clemson, and BC will be great opportunities for Leonard Hamilton’s squad to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.  

7) Clemson (20-7, 9-6) (AP Poll: No. 11) ↓ 3

The Tigers are now losers of their last three games. Things looked so promising after their upset win over UNC last month, but a seven-point loss to Virginia Tech is just another indicator that Clemson is falling at the worst time possible. With just three games left in the regular season, the Tigers will be desperately trying to make a case for a top-four ACC Tournament spot.

8) North Carolina State (19-9, 9-6) ↑ 1

The Wolfpack beat both Wake Forest and BC this past week, scoring at least 80 points in each game. As the season has progressed, certain players have really started to make a name for themselves. Allerik Freeman has N.C. State in scoring over the past three games—all wins—while Markell Johnson has the third-highest assists per games average in all of college basketball.    

9) Louisville (18-10, 8-7) ↓ 1

What a tough week it’s been for the Cardinals. Losses to Duke and UNC by a combined 44 points has surely hindered Louisville’s attempt at a favorable tournament slot. Even worse was the NCAA’s decision to strip the team of its 2013 national title. Rick Pitino believes the league “cannot rewrite history,” but the former head coach’s team really needs to be more concerned about the present.

10) Notre Dame (16-12, 6-9)

Matt Farrell single-handedly brought the Irish a victory in Chestnut Hill, Mass. last weekend with a win over BC netting a career-high 37 points. The next game, though, it was Lonnie Walker IV doing the scoring, hitting five 3-pointers on just seven attempts for Miami in what was Notre Dame’s ninth conference loss of the year. The Irish will need to pick up wins against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh before travelling to Charlottesville, Va. if it wants to preserve its tourney hopes.    

11) Syracuse (18-10, 7-8)

It’s fair to say that the Orange will need a miracle to make the tournament. After a near-loss to UNC, Syracuse may need to win out—which means beating both Duke and BC on the road within the next week, two teams that are no joke when they play at home. One thing the Orange has had going for them is its defense. After holding Miami to just 55, the team now has allowed the 13th-fewest points in the NCAA this year.    

12) Boston College (16-12, 6-9)

Two-straight double-digit losses certainly haven’t helped the Eagles. BC now has more turnovers than every team in the conference besides Wake Forest. In its loss to N.C. State, potential conference player of the year Jerome Robinson failed to reach 15 points for the first time in ACC-play and shot just 4-of-20 from the field, including 0-of-6 from downtown, and picked up an elbow injury to boot.

13) Wake Forest (12-18, 4-12)

A win against Pittsburgh isn’t fooling anyone. The Demon Deacons have the fourth-best long-distance shooting percentage in the conference, but haven’t been able to turn it into results. Head coach Danny Manning’s 12-win team is looking nothing like the one that was dancing in March just last year. It wouldn’t be surprising if Wake Forest is already looking at its 2018-19 schedule after locking down four top-tier recruits, including the five-star small forward Jaylen Hoard.  

14) Georgia Tech (11-17, 4-11)

There’s been no team more disappointing in the 2018 calendar year than the Yellow Jackets. Now losers in 10 of their last 11 games, GT is on pace for its worst record since the 2011-12 season. Many of its struggles are rooted in its inconsistent shooting ability, particularly that beyond the arc. The Yellow Jackets have made just 132 triples this year—tied for the sixth-worst mark in the NCAA and at least 100 fewer than six other conference teams.

15) Pittsburgh (8-21, 0-16)

FSU kept two of its starters out of its typical lineup, and the Panthers still managed to lose by 13 points. It’s been that kind of season for Pittsburgh, a team that will now either need to upset No. 1 Virginia or Notre Dame in order to get a conference win this year. It’s very likely that the Panthers will join BC as the only two ACC teams to go winless in conference play in the 21st century.

Featured Image by Nicole Chan / Heights Editor