Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
It’s officially the middle of January, which means
cold weather is here temps are in the upper 70s and conference races are in full swing. In fact, every team in the ACC has played exactly three league games. With that in mind, let’s look at the latest ACC Power Rankings*, which will be a weekly feature the rest of the season.
*For my Power Rankings, I am factoring in who a team has won/lost to, where the games were played, and the eye test—how did they look, were they blown out, were they missing a key player who should return soon, etc. Also, while the whole season is considered, more weight is given to the most recent results.
ACC Power Rankings as of 1/15/13 (movement from previous Power Ranking in parentheses):
1. Duke: 15-1, 2-1 (same) – Lost on the road to NCSU without the services of Ryan Kelly. No shame in that and all things considered I still feel the Blue Devils are currently the best team in the league.
2. NCSU: 14-2, 3-0 (same) – Looked great against Duke, especially in the second half, but less than stellar against BC last week. Will be interested to see how they handle court-storming success in their game at a desperate Maryland team tomorrow.
3. Miami: 12-3, 3-0 (same) – Just keep chugging along, even without Reggie Johnson, who’s out at least another month with a broken thumb.
4. UNC: 11-5, 1-2 (up 1) – This is where things get tricky. Honestly, not much is separating the next 3 or 4 teams, but they have to be put in some sort of order. UNC looked much more focused on the road against FSU, so let’s go with them for now. @Maryland on Saturday will be huge for both teams.
5. FSU: 10-6, 2-1 (up 1) – Playing better of late, having won 6 of their last 8 games, but several terrible losses still weigh heavily. Blew a chance to start the ACC season 3-0 by getting dominated by UNC on the boards, but won @Maryland last week. A win @UVA on Saturday coupled with a UNC loss would likely move them up to fourth.
6. Maryland: 14-3, 1-2 (down 2) – Lost to FSU and Miami last week and now face NCSU and UNC this week. After winning 13 straight games—against terrible competition—is it possible the Terps lose 4 in a row?
7. UVA: 11-5, 1-2 (same) – Honestly, this may be too generous, but they did beat UNC two weeks ago. Last week was rough, however, with losses to Wake and Clemson. Now the Wahoos are desperate for a win at home this Saturday against FSU, or else face a deep hole to climb out of in the ACC.
8. Clemson: 9-6, 1-2 (up 2) – I wouldn’t argue if you put them above UVA in your own rankings—after all they did just beat UVA 59-44 on Saturday. But for now I’ll stop their rise at 8. Have a winnable home game tonight against Wake, before visiting NCSU on Sunday.
9. Wake Forest: 9-6, 2-1 (up 3) – This is the highest Wake Forest has been in a league Power Ranking in a couple years, but the young Demon Deacons have started to look a bit better lately. Consecutive wins against UVA and BC confirm this. Beat Clemson tonight and we could be looking at the surprise team of the league.
10. BC: 9-7, 1-2 (up 1) – There’s no shame in losing to NCSU in Raleigh, and the Eagles did get a road win against Va Tech. Lost a close one against Wake on Saturday, which could be the start of a long losing streak as the schedule makers now bring Miami, @Maryland, @UVA, and UNC in consecutive games.
11. Virginia Tech: 10-6, 1-2 (down 3) – The Oklahoma State victory feels ages ago, as an injury-riddled, depthless Hokie squad has lost 6 out of their last 9 games. They finally broke a four-game losing streak on the road against GT on Saturday.
12. Georgia Tech: 10-5, 0-3 (down 3) – Tough times for the Yellow Jackets. Winning against either Miami or NCSU would have been a tall order, but losing at home to Va Tech...yikes. GT has 1 win against a team in KenPom’s top 100 on the season—against St. Mary’s back on November 25th—and now their schedule takes them on the road to face Duke and UNC in back to back games…double yikes.
Now let’s shift over to some NCAA Tourney talk. I know it’s still pretty early in the season, but for the ACC there are already some pretty clear lines being drawn in the sand with regards to respective chances of getting invited onto the dance floor.
There are only seven teams—and that may be generous—that have a plausible chance to garner an at-large bid in March. Those teams just happen to be the top seven of the above Power Rankings. Teams like Clemson, Wake, BC, and GT may still have a pretty big say in which of the top seven get a bid if/when they spring a few upsets during conference play, but as of now none of those teams have anything that comes close to resembling an at-large profile. So for this article, I’ll just focus on the seven that do. After looking at resumes of not only the ACC, but for Tourney contenders everywhere, there seems to be four distinct categories:
Stone Cold Locks: Duke
Going to be in, barring a TOTAL collapse: NCSU, Miami
Can get in by taking care of business and stealing a win against the big boys: FSU and UNC
MAJOR work to do, but not impossible: Maryland and UVA (and UVA is getting dangerously close to joining the bottom five. Heck, their RPI is currently 161st!).
Most people might be surprised to see FSU with better chances than Maryland at the moment, but if you read our season preview material you shouldn’t be. Both FSU and UNC have something going for them that Maryland—and UVA—will be missing all year long: a strong SOS.
UVA’s expected OOC SOS is 292 (courtesy of www.rpiforecast.com, a pretty handy--and free--site for those who have never seen it). Maryland's is worse, checking in at 314. Compare that with 54 for FSU and 104 for UNC. This all leads to expected SOS’s of 12 (UNC), 14 (FSU), 108 (UVA), and 112 (Maryland). That, my friends, will make a HUGE difference come Selection Sunday.
Another thing keeping FSU close to the cut line despite several terrible losses is their number of solid OOC wins. FSU currently sits with three non-conference wins in the top 65 of the RPI, with all of them coming on the road or at neutral sites. Topping the list is BYU. The Cougars are ranked 37th in the RPI and should keep their mid-30s ranking unless they drop several games to lower-level West Coast Conference teams. UVA and Maryland only have three top 100 non-con wins combined right now, and one of them is Stony Brook.
If the season ended today, the ACC might really only get 3 bids (though I suspect UNC might make the cut due to name value alone). However, as conference season wears on and teams around the country start to beat each other up, I think the ACC can realistically end up with 5 bids. 6 could be possible, but Maryland and/or UVA would need to turn things around quickly.
Finally, with FSU perched precariously on the bubble, here are some other teams around the country that Nole fans need to start rooting against:
Kentucky (yes, Kentucky. If selections were made today I think they would be out)