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ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Jan. 14

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 10:19am

Jim Young ranks the ACC's basketball teams, from 1 to 15.

Finally, some power rankings!

Why did it take this long? Was I wisely waiting until the start of conference play so that I could make more apples-to-apples comparisons? Suuuuure. You didn't think I waited this long simply becaus I didn't get around to it, did you? 

You did, didn't you?

No matter. Let's move past this and into the always-fun task of sorting out the ACC's basketball teams from No. 1 to No. 15!

No. 1 Syracuse (17-0 overall, 4-0 ACC, No. 7 RPI)

I gotta admit, the Orange hasn't looked too pretty in any of its four ACC wins thus far but ... it has four ACC wins to date. And no losses. Period. 

What impresses me about Syracuse is the number of ways they can beat you. One day it's C.J. Fair. The next day it's Trevor Cooney from three. Or Tyler Ennis. Or Jerami Grant. And then there's the constant - that ferocious zone D. 

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No. 2 Pitt (15-1, 3-0 ACC, No. 15 RPI)

I was all high on Pitt and then felt embarrassed when they played in that god-awful game against Cincinnati. Now I'm embarrassed that I was ever embarrassed. The Panthers ARE good, darn it! And now the rest of the ACC is realizing it. I'm sorry I ever contemplating jumping off the bandwagon, Pitt fans. 

I'm also really sorry that stellar sixth man Durand Johnson is out for the season with an ACL tear. Uggh. 

No. 3 Duke (13-4, 2-2 ACC, No. 27 rpi)

And this is where things start to tighten up a bit. Duke would likely be two spots lower if Rasheed Sulaimon's three-pointer from the left baseline hadn't had just the right amount of backspin on it, allowing it to somehow bounce off the far side of the rim and float up - and then back - and then down into the rim for the go-ahead basket last night against UVa. 

The fact that Sulaimon made that big basket should be encouraging for Duke, which needs him to regain his aggressive, confident ways. The Blue Devils also need Jabari Parker to get into this whole conference play thing. Parker is just 14-of-46 (30.5 percent) from the field in Duke's four ACC games. 

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No. 4 Virginia (12-5, 3-1 ACC, No. 22 RPI)

My roller coaster ride with UVa has been similar to my adventure with Pitt, only much steeper, in both directions. I was VERY high on the Cavaliers in the preseason, then VERY disappointed with them by the end of non-conference play - did that 35-point loss to Tennessee really happen? - then VERY impressed with their win at Florida State and their rout of N.C. State in Raleigh. 

Then the Cavaliers very nearly muddled their way to a win at Duke. The offense is still nothing to write home about, but the D is as good as ever. If Bennett can figure out a way to get just a little more scoring - I personally vote for more Malcolm Brogdon and Justin Anderson attacking the basket - this is as dangerous team as any in the ACC.

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No. 5 Florida State (11-4, 2-1 ACC, No. 32 RPI)

Leonard Hamilton continues to use his curious strategy of keeping his top two scorers - Ian Miller (13.9 ppg) and Aaron Thomas (12.5 ppg) - on the bench at the start of games. It creates this weird effect in which the Seminoles typically slog through the first few minutes and then suddenly make a leap forward, four to five minutes into the game. I'll be honest, I don't quite get it, but hey, it appears to be working for the Seminoles. 

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Warning: From this point down through No. 13 we're just going to be spinning the WHEEL ... OF ... UNCERTAINTY!!!!!

Roulette Wheel

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No. 6 UNC (10-6, 0-3 ACC, No. 50 RPI)

And now we get the really nutty part of these power rankings? How nutty, you ask? How about putting the team that's dead last in the ACC standings in the No. 6 spot? That nutty enough for you? 

I'll take any excuse to slip in a Seinfeld clip. Y'all know this by now.

But seriously, as bad as UNC has been to start league play, you still can't ignore those three big non-conference wins. That's why the Tar Heels are still (barely) in the top 50 in the RPI.

Oh, and there's also the matter of all the other teams around UNC. It only gets nuttier from here.

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No. 7 N.C. State (11-5, 1-2 ACC, No. 72 RPI)

Behold, my first deviation from the RPI!  The Wolfpack is actually ninth in the ACC by that metric, but I forge my own path, I tell you! Where will it lead? Umm ...

 (Yes, I know I've used that clip before. Expect it again in the future. These power rankings have that sort of effect on me.)

Confession: I missed N.C. State's 31-point beatdown at home against UVa. Egads. 

Still, that UVa team lost by 35 points to Tennessee. You may recall that the Wolfies beat those very same Volunteers, in Knoxville. Go figure.

Denny Kuiper believes - and I agree - that every team has one mulligan game, an aberration that you just throw it when judging a squad's overall worth. I'm treating State's loss to UVa like that, for now. I still think this is more likely the team that beat Tennessee, almost beat Mizzou, and won at Notre Dame.

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No. 8 Wake Forest (11-5, 1-2 ACC, No. 66 RPI)

I was a little surprised that the RPI gods had been so kind to Wake Forest. I hadn't really thought that the Deacs had a memorable win this season other than their victory over UNC, but the bean counters tell me that Southern Cal, Richmond and St. Bonaventure are also Top 100 RPI squads. As important is the fact that Wake's "worst" loss is to Tennessee (did the Vols play the entire ACC in non-con play?). 

Thus, the fairly attractive RPI number. But I need to see more. Maybe I'm jaded by the first three years of the Jeff Bzdelik Experience. If so, can you really blame me?

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No. 9 Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2 ACC, No. 75 RPI)

Do I have the Irish too high here? I mean, this is a team that plays "meh" defense at best (No. 140 nationally in KenPom's ratings) and lost its most versatile offensive weapon when Jerian Grant was forced to leave school because of academics. 

But I also have faith in Mike Brey's ability to make chicken salad out of ... actually let's go with lemonade out of lemons. Since Grant's departure, the Irish got a top-100 RPI win over Canisius, beat Duke and nearly won at Georgia Tech (which actually qualifies as Notre Dame's worst loss of the year). I know, nothing to write home about. But also no reason to write off the season just yet, either. 

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No. 10 Clemson (11-4, 2-1 ACC, No. 115 RPI)

I had a feeling the Tigers might just be sneaky good this season. But oy, that loss to Auburn. And, oof, that offensive no-show against FSU. Actually just that offense in general.

So ... where does that leave us?

Brad Brownell's guys can play elite defense (No. 8 nationally, per KenPom.com). That means they'll be in a lot of games. But if that offense doesn't improve (No. 173 nationally, per KenPom.com) the Tigers will be headed for a lot of close losses/moral victories.

Enter Jaron Blossomgame. 

Recruitniks know that Blossomgame was emerging as a stud prospect when he broke his leg in the spring of his senior season in high school. He redshirted last year, but needed a second surgery in June, which sidelined him for the summer. So that 14-point barrage against Duke, which seemed to come out of the blue? Maybe it was Blossomgame's coming out party. If so, then Clemson suddenly has a sidekick to go with K.J. McDaniels and an infusion of scoring punch it desperately needs. 

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No. 11 Maryland (10-7, 2-2 ACC, No. 97 RPI)

I promise this isn't about the whole Big Ten thing. I'm just not feeling the Terps right now. I had high hopes for them this season but ... they don't do anything particularly well. They're not really poor at anything either, though. They're just kinda ... there. 

Also, I thought a Mark Turgeon-coached team would be more stingy defensively. But Maryland is 11th in the ACC in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. And they still turn the ball over too much.

Okay, now I am piling on. It's worth noting that Seth Allen's only been back for the past five games and that his presence at the point may smooth out some of the rough spots on offense, at least.

Of course, Allen went 0-for-8 with 1 point against FSU. 

Let's just move on, okay? 

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No. 12 Georgia Tech (10-6, 1-2 ACC, No. 113 RPI)

Joining Maryland in the "Meh" part of this power rankings is Georgia Tech. I'm not massively disappointed in what the Yellow Jackets have done so far, but I'm certainly not impressed either. Thank goodness for that furious rally to beat Illinois.

The positive narrative for the Yellow Jackets entering the season was that another year of experience on the perimeter - along with the addition of Tennessee transfer Trae Golden - would pair with an imposing front line to make Georgia Tech dangerous.

But that perimeter just hasn't been very good (29.2 percent from three-point range - blech). And now that Robert Carter Jr. is out for the  season, the front line's not so imposing either. 

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No. 13 Miami (9-6, 1-2 ACC, No. 71 RPI)

Based purely on the last two games, the Hurricanes deserve to be ranked higher. They gave Syracuse a huge scare in the Carrier Dome and then knocked of UNC in Chapel Hill. Miam's also won four of five, including a top-100 RPI win over LaSalle. 

But ...

We can't just ignore that home loss to Virginia Tech, can we? Or that home loss to Central Florida (No. 210 in RPI). Or that home loss to St. Francis (No. 146). 

I believe in Jim Larranaga and I believe he'll get the most out of this Miami team. But I need to see more before I'm convinced the Canes truly after the team of the last three weeks and not the squad that stumbled so much before then. Still, this is a team that could make a rapid move up these power rankings if it keeps up its current pace. Lord knows there are plenty of teams ahead of Miami that are basically stuck in neutral right now.

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No. 14 Boston College (5-12, 1-3 ACC, 120 RPI)

Steve Donahue beefed up the non-conference schedule so even though the Eagles already have 12 losses, their RPI's not too bad! So BC's got that going for it ... which is nice.

You know what BC doesn't have going for it? A defense (297th per KenPom.com). Of any kind. 

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No. 15 Virginia Tech (8-7, 1-2 ACC, No. 159 RPI)

I've said it before - James Johnson has a thankless task. He's got a depleted roster in terms of talent, which has also been bitten by the injury bug. And he's a coach with a cheap contract, working for a lame-duck AD. 

So given all that, I think he's doing a pretty good job. But that doesn't mean I see much hope for the rest of this season. That home game against BC? REALLY needed to win that one.