The first ACC basketball power rankings of the season may look a lot different than it will in February. Hot starts by upstarts combined with teams still searching will do that. Consider Virginia Tech and North Carolina as examples of clubs that may move a lot in the rankings.
One thing is certain as we’re nearly a month into the season, the ACC’s depth is stronger than is appeared before the season began and Florida State is the most disappointing team. Here are this week’s rankings:
1. Duke (8-0)
Indiana looked nearly unbeatable against UNC, but nobody has a resume that comes close to Duke’s so far. It has beaten Kentucky, Minnesota and Louisville on neutral floors plus Ohio State at home. And to think the Blue Devils should get better as the freshmen get more time and Marshall Plumlee gets healthy. Quinn Cook is the X-factor and he has shown excellent growth.
2. Maryland (6-1)
The second slot was hard to fill because even though the Terrapins almost beat Kentucky, which is now struggling. The Terps haven’t exactly been routing teams. But they are winning and Alex Len has clearly improved. The upside is pretty high, so expect Mark Turgeon’s team to grow.
3. Miami (5-1)
The Hurricanes lost to Florida Gulf Coast, but this past week they beat Michigan State and then pulled away from a good UMass team on the road, showing who they really are. As experienced and deep as Miami is, its backcourt is really playing well. Once they get more balanced the Hurricanes could be extremely good.
4. Virginia Tech (7-0)
Surprise, surprise. Seth Greenberg was finally fired last spring and an assistant of his (James Johnson) took over and completely changed how the Hokies play. No more micromanaging. Instead, the Hokies are running and using their strengths. Guard Erick Green is have a great season so far, and with wins over Iowa and this past weekend over then-No. 15 Oklahoma State, it’s safe to say Virginia Tech is the surprise team of the conference.
5. N.C. State (4-2)
No team in the ACC has a more talented starting five, but the Wolfpack lacks depth and leadership. Plus, C.J. Leslie has had focus issues, which can be a major problem for Mark Gottfried’s team. But, if N.C. State can work through this it should win a bunch of games. This will be one of the more interesting teams in the nation to follow for the next few months.
6. North Carolina (6-2)
UNC has already been down by at least 29 points in two different games, so it’s obvious the Tar Heels aren’t nearly as good as many expected before the season began. North Carolina has point guard issues (Marcus Paige needs work), defensive problems, rebounding questions, and the Tar Heels lack leadership. The good thing for UNC is that it’s plenty talented and Roy Williams should eventually find the right combinations.
7. Clemson (5-2)
South Carolina isn’t a world-beater, but that was a really nice road win for the Tigers over the weekend. They did it without suspended senior Milton Jennings and it came after a home loss to a mediocre Purdue team. But so far, sophomore K.J. McDaniels has played very well and Clemson’s defense has been excellent.
8. Virginia (6-2)
Despite just recently getting back Jontel Evans and not having Malcolm Brogdon, the Cavaliers are growing. Joe Harris is a fine player, Virginia plays defense and Tony Bennett is patient enough to bring this team along regardless of the results. They should continue improving.
9. Georgia Tech (4-2)
Brian Gregory’s team has had its moments, including in losses to California and at Illinois. Junior forward Kameron Holsey is playing the best ball of his career by far, and freshman guard Marcus Georges-Hunt has really played well. Among Georgia Tech’s wins, a neutral site victory over St. Mary’s will help the Yellow Jackets’ resume.
10. Florida State (4-3)
With home losses to South Alabama, which wasn’t a complete shock, and this past weekend to Mercer, FSU is easily the most disappointing team in the ACC. Add a third home loss to Minnesota and the first month has been extremely rough on Leonard Hamilton. The problem is meshing a few veterans with a ton of freshmen. It’s going to take time.
11. Boston College (3-4)
The drop off between the No. 10 team in the league and the bottom two right now is significant. The Eagles have lost at home to Bryant as well as on neutral floors to Baylor, Dayton by 16 points and College of Charleston. They did win at Penn State last week.
12. Wake Forest (3-4)
The neutral court loss to UConn was Wake’s best game to date, but the next day the Deacons were blown out by Iona and last week lost at home to Nebraska by 16 and at Richmond. They have no quality wins and are just not a good team. This is Year No. 3 of the Jeff Bzdelik era, and it’s not getting better.