1. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have won nine of their last ten games and continue to be the frontrunner in conference play. Last week they barely escaped a feisty Pittsburgh team 80-78 and then beat another ranked team in Notre Dame 83-76. But UNC has the toughest schedule left in the country, including two games against Duke, two against Virginia and one at Louisville. It’s a tough road ahead, but UNC has proven they can beat anybody. Next up for the Tar Heels is a rivalry game at Duke on Thursday.
2. Florida State
FSU has found their stride again after two double-digit losses in a row a couple weeks ago. Since then the Seminoles traveled to Miami and throttled the ‘Canes 75-57, and blew Clemson out of the building in Tallahassee 109-61 (they had nine players with at least six points). Six of their last seven ACC games are against unranked teams and expect the ‘Noles to finish regular season play inside the AP top 10. Next up FSU hosts struggling NC state tonight.
Louisville is a final four contender. They lost 71-55 at UVA on Monday, but that game should be disregarded when analyzing the Cardinals. In that game they were missing three starters (two suspended for missing curfew) and their backup point guard. Louisville still has two games on the schedule against a red-hot Syracuse team and travel to UNC in two weeks. Louisville will be a tough out for anyone come tourney time, and with Quentin Snider coming back shortly, Louisville will be at full strength and finish the season strong. Next up the Cards host Miami on Saturday.
The Cavaliers have had some ups and downs of late, alternating wins and losses the past five games, with both losses coming on the road in close games against Villanova and Syracuse. Like Louisville, the 16 point victory UVA had over the Cardinals shouldn’t be analyzed to heavily. Like most Cavaliers teams under Tony Bennett their success stems from relentless effort on the defensive end; they haven’t allowed over 71 points in their last seven games. UVA still has two games against UNC on their schedule, a couple of games that will greatly influence who wins the ACC regular season. Next up for the Cavs is an in-state rivalry matchup at Virginia Tech on Sunday.
Put the rest of the country on notice: Duke has their mojo back, and by mojo I mean Coach K. Duke has rattled off three consecutive victories including a win over Pittsburgh in Coach K’s return last Saturday. The Blue Devils remaining schedule is daunting, with four games against AP top 15 teams and road games at Syracuse and Miami. But the preseason #1 team has their heart back and got it back in the midst of a hot streak. Mark my words, Duke is here to stay and will make an Elite Eight run. Luke Kennard is having one of the best seasons of anyone in the nation, and Grayson Allen has the willpower and confidence to take games over late. Next up Duke hosts UNC on Thursday for the next installment of the best rivalry in college sports.
6./7. Notre Dame/Syracuse
Notre Dame halted a four-game skid by beating Wake Forest 88-81 yesterday. The Irish should be favored in at least four of their six remaining games and finish the season as a borderline AP top 25 team. But Notre Dame has a major flaw, they lack size and get beat up by teams that have big bodies. Teams will try to go big against the Irish and exploit their achilles heel come tourney time. With their easy remaining schedule (for an ACC team) Notre Dame should enter the ACC standings feeling much better than they have been feeling the past couple weeks. Next up the Irish host FSU on Saturday.
Syracuse all-of-a-sudden is clicking on all cylinders and alone in fourth place in the ACC. They’re on a five game winning streak, with two wins over AP top 10 teams and an 82-81 win at Clemson at the buzzer. The streak also includes a 16-point second half comeback at NC State, led by John Gillon's three-point clinic and 43 points. This Jim Boeheim coached squad is following an eerily similar path to last years team, who got scorching hot late and made a Cinderella-type run to the Final Four. But all year the Orange have struggle on the road, with a 2-7 record away from the Carrier Dome. That said, the Orange turned around their season and become an NCAA Tournament team and should be a tough out in the first weekend. Next up the Orange travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday.
The ‘Canes are just about as unpredictable as teams come. They beat up UNC at home 77-62, but then got beaten up by FSU 75-57. The FSU drubbing was just another example of a terrible Miami second half, getting outscored in the half 44-23. The Hurricanes took a step in the right direction on Saturday beating NC State 84-79 on the road. Davon Reed is playing great ball and still stroking it from beyond-the-arc (7/10 last game), and Miami got huge contributions off the bench last game from Anthony Lawrence Jr. (7/9 from the field, 19 points) and Ebuka Izundu (6/9 from the field, 16 points). If the bench can contribute on a consistent basis like this, then maybe these guys can play more minutes and guys like Bruce Brown won’t be so tired in the second half. Miami has three road games left against AP top 15 teams. Next up Miami hosts Virginia Tech Tonight.
9. Virginia Tech
The Hokies sit even with Miami in the ACC at 5-5. Va Tech is 0-4 in 2017 against ranked teams and since ACC play began they have only had back-to-back wins once. Tonights game at Miami would be huge for the Hokies to get a much needed result before hosting UVA for the second time in 11 days. But Va Tech has dominated at home, so far 12-1 on the season, and their season is very similar to Miami’s so far. Next up for Va Tech is their matchup at the Watsco Center tonight.
10. Wake Forest
In the last month the Demon Deacons lost two, then won two, then lost two, then won two and have now dropped their latest game yesterday at Notre Dame. This streak is pretty indicative of their season, they haven’t won four in a row or lost three in a row all season. Clearly they’re an up and down team, but when they’ve played ranked teams this year they’re 0-6. Wake could make the Tournament if they finish the season strong, but they need a resume building win. Next up Wake hosts NC State on Saturday.
11. Georgia Tech
After I wrote about Ga Tech being the Cinderella of the ACC, they went on the road and lost by double-digits to Clemson and Wake Forest. They have a similar record to Wake, but the Yellow Jackets have three wins against ranked teams. They are ranked worse than Wake here because of this recent skid (excluding a 96-58 victory over Tusculum, 'cuz who the hell is that?) and their 81-69 loss at Wake last week. The Yellow Jackets have maybe the easiest schedule left in the ACC. Over the remaining weeks they have seven games against unranked teams, and none against ranked teams. Georgia Tech could rattle off some wins here and end up in the Tournament thanks to their key resume wins against UNC, Notre Dame and FSU. Next up Ga Tech hosts BC on Saturday.
12. North Carolina State
The Wolpack have lost three straight, including blowing a 16-point lead in the second half to Syracuse at home. NC State has a tough stretch the rest of the way and I expect them to struggle and be an early out in the ACC tournament. Next up for the Wolfpack is a road matchup tonight against FSU.
Last week the Tigers got their second straight win, something they had yet to accomplish in ACC play. Then the wheels came off in a pitiful 109-61 defeat at Florida State. Clemson was quickly back on the court two days later and looking like they had completely forgotten about their last performance. The Tigers took a two-point lead against Syracuse with 6.2 seconds left on a jumper from Dante Grantham, but lost on a three-pointer by Tyus Battle at the buzzer. Just another woe in a conference season full of woes for Clemson. ESPN said the Tigers are still on bubble, but I believe they have no shot to make the Tournament. Next up Clemson plays at Duke on Saturday.
Poor Panthers. Pitt has just one conference win (vs UVA somehow...) and has lost eight games in a row. Two weeks ago Louisville beat Pittsburgh 106-51, that’s unheard of. Next up the Panthers face Boston College tonight on the road in the battle of the ACC’s worst. If Pitt can’t win that one then there’s a legitimate chance they could finish conference play with 1 win.
15. Boston College
The Eagles have dropped seven straight, but have tended to keep games close. With a win in their matchup tonight at home vs Pittsburgh, BC could move out of the 15 spot and all the way up to 14! So good luck Boston College, I’ll be rooting for you!