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As The ACC Turns: Week 2 Power Rankings

Duke dethroned, CJ Leslie saves a boy in a wheelchair, and Georgia Tech is all alone at the bottom.

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We are 3 games into the ACC season and there is a new king after NCSU dethroned Duke in Raleigh on Saturday. Our boys are tied for first place in the conference at 3-0. After just 3 games, 3 tiers seem to be emerging, with Duke, NCST, UM, and FSU a step ahead of the next 4, Maryland, UNC, Wake, and Virginia. This group can probably beat any other team on a given night, but they each have some flaws to address to get over the hump. Their tourney chances hang in the balance. Then we have Virginia Tech, Clemson, BC, and Georgia Tech bringing up the rear as all appear to be in the rebuilding phase.

1) North Carolina State (3-0)
Previous Rank: 3rd

What they did this week

NCSU 83 Georgia Tech 70
NCSU 84 Duke 76

NC State had 2 huge wins at home. Last week I questioned why they seemed to play worse than there talent suggested, but they showed up in a big way this week. Leslie had an absolutely monster 25-point game, and then rescued a young man in a wheelchair from being trampled while players stormed the court. If they can continue to play to this level of intensity, NC State can make a run for the conference and I won't be surprised if there made a deep run in March.

What's hot: With all the accolades for CJ Leslie, excitement for Purvis, and great play by Warren and Howell, Lorenzo Brown is playing at a very high level for a point guard, probably the best in the conference so far. Against Georgia Tech he had 21 points and 10 assists and then 12 with 14 13 assists when his shot wasn't falling against Duke.

What's not: Consistency. Despite the 3-0 start, I still want to see this team play up to their abilities rather than down to their competition. Maryland this week will be a good place to show they are going to bring it every night.



2) Duke (2-1) Previous ranked: 1st

What they did this week

W Duke 68 Clemson 40
L NCSU 84 Duke 76

I don't know if this week told us much about Duke. They blew out a very physical Clemson team in Durham, but it was a bit of a phyrric victory with Ryan Kelly going down with a hurt foot. While not often the star, Kelly is the facilitator of the offense, drawing bigs out of the paint, knocking down 3s if they don't, and then playing strong defense with his length on the other end. They lost to Lehigh last year without him and I'm not sure how much losing to an immensely talented NC State team without Kelly means. A big story over the next week will be how they adapt without him.

What's hot: With all apologies to Mason Plumlee, Quinn cook is running the show in Durham with a game of 14 assists against Wake, followed by 27 points and five assists against Clemson and a less efficient 17 and 7 assists against NC State.

What's not: Injuries threaten to derail Duke. Ryan Kelly is out roughly a month with a foot injury and Seth Curry tweak his ankle against NC State not to mention his ongoing chronic shin issue that is keeping him out of practice. The good doctors at Duke Med are going to be busy keeping this group patched up.

3) Miami (3-0) Previous rank: 4th

What they did this week
W Miami 68 UNC 59
W Miami 54 Maryland 47

I don't know how many people thought Miami could get through two of the historic contenders in the conference, but Miami won both games with grit, hard-nosed defense, and some timely shooting. I don't have much to add to what our great team here has already said. This team is a lot of fun to watch and I don't want it to end any time soon.

What's hot: Defense. This team's identity is clearly on the defensive end where they have only given up more than 60 points once in the last nine games, to undefeated Arizona. When you pair that with grown men down low, marksmen on the wing, and 2 great drivers in Scott and Larkin, Miami is about to make some noise.

What's not: Rankings. Despite having the 5th (!!!) RPI in the nation, arguably a better measure of a team's resume than rankings, Miami is getting no love from the voters. 21 ranked teams have a lower RPI than Miami and 7 more teams getting more votes than the Canes. Check out Jerry's great work on the subject

4) Florida State (2-1) Previous Rank: 9th

What they did this week

W FSU 65 Maryland 62

L UNC 77 FSU 72

FSU had an up and down week with a good win over a talented Maryland squad but losing to UNC as the Tar Heels trying to find their sea legs. FSU allowed too many 3s and too many rebounds against UNC. FSU gets games against their defensive twin, UVa and then Clemson to sort out some of the issues before Miami comes to town the week next Sunday.

What's Hot: Okaro White was white hot against Maryland with 20 points, including 15 straight at one point for FSU. He threw in 9 boards and 6 blocks for good measure and followed it up with 15 points in a losing effort to UNC. His 16.6 ppg is 8th in league play.

What's Not: Rebounding. FSU was outrebounded by 3 (39-36) against Maryland but got punished on the boards by UNC, 34-18. UNC is not a great rebounding team this season due to a lack of girth down low. Turning that around will help in their rematch with UNC. With all the length Leonard Hamilton has on his squad, they should do better in this department.

5) Maryland (1-2) Previous rank: 2nd

What they did this week

L FSU 65 Maryland 62
L Miami 54 Maryland 47

As smart as NC State is making me look, Maryland is making me look dumb for jumping on the bandwagon last week. While both Miami and FSU are off to strong starts, Maryland needs to figure out its offense. They scored just 26 against FSU in the 2nd half and blew a 12 point lead when the offense stagnated. Alex Len had his standard 15 points and 10 board but did not get much help from the supporting cast. And they are capable of it. College Park is still a work in progress, but they have more than enough time to make a run.

What's Hot: Alex Len: 15-10 against FSU and 16-9 against Miami is about as well as anyone can play basketball. Not much else to say other than Len looks like a surefire first team All ACC at this point

What's Not: Pe'Shon Howard is in a funk. He is 0-13 and did not score in losses to FSU and Miami. While they do not need him to be a big time scorer, just the threat could help open things up for everyone.

6) North Carolina (1-2) Previously Rank: 5th

What they did this week
L Miami 68 UNC 59
W UNC 77 FSU 72

After a hard fought lost to the Canes, North Carolina got off the schneid with a win against a good FSU squad. While still having trouble defending the 3, much like the Miami game, UNC out rebounded FSU 34-18 and shot 40% from three. The fact reserve guard PJ Hairston stepped up for 23 points including 4 3 pointers also helps. With a favorable schedule coming up, they may be able to work out some issues

What's Hot: North Carolina's last of consistency means no one jumps out over the last week, but I'll go with 3 point shooting. They are shooting 40% over their last two games, 6-15 against Miami and 8-20 against FSU.

What's Not: Dexter Strickland. The starting guard just doesn't seem to be the same guy he was before his injury. Against Miami he was 0-1 with an airball and contributed 0 assists, points, blocks, steals, turnovers or rebounds. He followed this up with 4 points against FSU. That's 4 points, 3 boards, and 2 assists in 51 minutes on the floor over two games. The Heels need more.

7) Wake Forest (2-1) Previous Rank: 12th

What they did this week
W Wake 55 Virginia 52
W Wake 75 BC 72

Wake makes the biggest jump on our list, going from the cellar to the middle of the pack with 2 wins against teams in the bottom half of our rankings. But a win is a win and Wake had some flashes in their loss to Duke.

Whats Hot: Executing down the stretch. Wake won 2 close games and for a team with 9 scholarship freshman, that kind of moxie and wherewithal means a lot. A turnover, a bad pass, a poor shot, or a blown assignment could have been the difference in both games.

What's Not: Defense. Wake is second to last in the conference in field goal percent defense, allowing opponents to shoot 43.1 percent from the field. It has improved since the non-confence slate and I think they can be in the middle of the pack by the end of the season.

8) Virginia (1-2) Previous rank: 6th

What they did this week
L Wake 55 Virginia 52
L Clemson 59 Virginia 44

Virginia suffered a hangover after beating UNC. They lost to two teams in the bottom half of the league, and while their defense was strong, you still need to get close to 60 points to have a chance. Clemson's physicality seemed to bother the Yahoos a bit. In other news, Clemson used this game to host high school football players. I'm talking to you Dalvin Cook. The cool thing to do in Clemson on a Saturday is to watch Virginia basketball. Please come to Miami.

What's Hot: Akili Mitchell's rebounding. In 2 games this week he had 19 rebounds. The man is doing work down low.

What's Not: Ball going through the hoop. In 3 conference games they are averaging 52.3 points on 38.8% shooting and only averaging 11 assists per game. With their slow playing style they can't relaly afford to leave points on the line but are only shooting 60% from the foul line.

9) Virginia Tech (1-2) Previous rank: 7th

What they did this week
L BC 86 Virginia Tech 75
W Virginia Tech 70 Georgia Tech 65

Virginia Tech got their first win in over time against Georgia Tech but stumbled against Boston College where they were -12 in the turnover department. Erik Green continues his torrid scoring but there isn't a whole lot going on otherwise.

What's Hot: Erik Green's scoring. He scored 24 on 10-24 shooting against Boston College and then 28 on 9-16 shooting. Green is making the most of his senior year, going from averaging 15 ppg last year to 24 ppg this year, and it's fun to watch. He has 19 straight double digit scoring games, going back to last season.

What's Not: Backcourt play. Despite Green's scoring, the team isn't getting what it needs from it's guards: steals, assists, and 3s. They rank 12th, 11th, and 11th in conference in these 3 categories.

10) Clemson (1-2) Previous rank: 10th

What they did this week
L Duke 68 Clemson 40
W Clemson 59 Virginia 44

After getting demolished by Duke, Clemson regrouped for a very different type of squad and got their first victory of the year. This team plays near brutal, physical defense and that will keep them in most games, I just don't know where the points are going to come from night-in and night-out.

What's Hot: Devin Booker because I have a soft-spot for Bookers in general. Trevor, T. Washington, Corey. Devin hasn't shot well this week but got to the line to score 15 against Virginia and corral 9 missed shots. Against Duke he had 15 rebounds and 12 points.

What's Not: Guard play, much like Virginia Tech, Clemson is at the bottom of the categories that require strong guard play. Clemson only had 3 assists in an entire game against Duke. It goes to show how important guards are to college basketball and the ACC in particularly. When a guy can get to the rim on the bounce or is a knock down shooter, it opens everything else up.

11) Boston College (1-2) Previous rank: 11th

What they did this week
W BC 86 Virginia Tech 75
L Wake 75 BC 72

Boston College won their first conference game as some other guys are starting to emerge other than Ryan Anderson. Lonnie Jackson had 23 points and Olivier Hanlan had 18 in a loss to Wake and the pair had 22 and 17, respectively, in their win over equally defensively deficient Virginia Tech.

What's Hot: BC scoring. The Eagles are 2nd in the league to NC State in scoring at 77 points per game led by Ryan Anderson's 16.7 points per game. He should also be in All-ACC contention.

What's Not: If you can score, but aren't winning, then the issue is defense. BC is 2nd to last in scoring defense and dead last in field goal percent defense, allowing ACC opponents to shoot over 50% from the floor.

12) Georgia Tech (0-3) Previous rank: 8th

What they did this week
L NCSU 83 Georgia Tech 70
L Virginia Tech 70 Georgia Tech 65

After 3 games, everyone has a win except lonely Georgia Tech who lost a tight one against Virginia Tech. A 7 minute scoreless stretch did them in, as well as Erik Green's hot shooting.

What's Hot: Valuing the ball. Despite any other troubles, Georgia Tech only turned the ball over 16 times over the two games and are 2nd in the league in turnover margin behind Duke.

What's Not: Shooting. Last week Georgia Tech put on two frigid shooting displays, shooting 37% against NCSU with 22% from downtown and following it up with 36% against GT and 33% from downtown. I don't know the cause of it yet, but I'll get back to you when I do.

What's on tap for the Canes?

January 16, Boston College
7pm in Chestnut Hill, Mass ESPN 3

Only 1 game this week before Duke next week. I fully expect the Canes to handle business, walk into Conte Forum, and walk out with a win against one of the lower tiered conference teams. The team can score, but can't defend so far this year.

Biggest game of the week
Jan 16 NC State at Maryland
7pm ESPN 2

NC State is coming off a huge win to take the top spot in the conference and Maryland has a lot to prove after two losses last week. The talent is there and NCSU has to travel. The ingredients are there for a Maryland upset.