Well, it’s hard to believe we’re here, but here we are — the last week of ACC regular-season hoops. Starting March 8, we’ll be watching the ACC tourney, and in a couple Saturdays, we’ll crown a champ. Virginia? North Carolina? Miami? Someone else? We’ll just have to watch things play out.
College basketball only gets better this time of year — I think we’d all agree. So let’s get to the nitty gritty. This week’s rankings, from bottom to top:
15. Boston College (no change)
Record: 7-22 (0-16 ACC)
Last week: 56-71 L vs. Virginia Tech, 71-76 L vs. Georgia Tech
This week: March 2 at NC State, March 5 vs. Clemson
Will Boston College win an ACC game this year? And if the Eagles don’t, what kind of history will they make? Believe me, I tried to figure out when an ACC team last went winless in conference. But what can I say — ESPN only gives ACC standings back to 2001-02. All I can tell you at present is that no one’s achieved an 0-fer since the Wizards scooped up Kwame Brown with the No. 1 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft.
I can also tell you, per SB Nation, that Boston College is gunning for an ignominious twofer: a winless ACC campaign in both football and basketball.
14. Wake Forest (no change)
Record: 11-18 (2-15 ACC)
Last week: 58-69 L vs. Notre Dame, 74-81 L vs. Virginia Tech
This week: March 1 at No. 17 Duke
After falling to the Irish and Hokies at LJVM Coliseum this past week, the Demon Deacons close out the regular season at Cameron Indoor Stadium against Duke. The Blue Devils gave Coach Danny Manning’s team absolute fits last season in Durham, picking up a 94-51 blowout win.
Senior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre was the bright spot in that loss, tallying 20 points and five assists, and Wake Forest will need everything he and bruising senior forward Devin Thomas can supply on Tuesday night.
13. NC State (no change)
Record: 14-15 (4-12 ACC)
Last week: 68-80 L vs. No. 8 North Carolina, 66-75 L at Syracuse
This week: March 2 vs. Boston College, March 5 at Notre Dame
I’m pretty sure I decided against a Cat Barber update last week, and that’s not a decision I feel comfortable making again. So, here it is: Barber had one Barber-esque game this week and one quieter performance, which we’ll chalk up as an aberration.
The ACC’s leading scorer put up 32 points in 39 minutes against Carolina — the Wolfpack’s Virginia Tech — and then finished with 15 on only eight shots against ‘Cuse. We’ll excuse Barber, though, because 23.2 points is 10.5 more than the next best scoring average on the team.
12. Florida State (no change)
Record: 17-12 (7-10 ACC)
Last week: 65-80 L at No. 17 Duke, 77-56 W vs. Notre Dame
This week: March 5 vs. Syracuse
Just when the Seminoles seemed done, coach Leonard Hamilton’s team scored a no-doubt victory against highly competent Notre Dame. Florida State’s hopes for an at-large tourney bid likely faded during a five-game losing streak from Feb. 11-25, but at least the ‘Noles kept playing.
I’d like to say this group has a ton of promise between sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes and freshmen Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon, but the latter two might be leaving Tallahassee for the NBA pretty soon.
11. Virginia Tech (down 1)
Record: 16-13 (8-8 ACC)
Last week: 71-56 W at Boston College, 81-74 W at Wake Forest
This week: March 2 vs. Pittsburgh, March 5 vs. No. 7 Miami
The Hokies matched up with Miami on three occasions last season, losing by double figures every time. Will Saturday’s regular-season finale turn out differently? Virginia Tech is much improved in the 2015-16 season — counting the tournament, the Hokies won just three ACC games last year — but then again, so is Miami.
One thing’s for certain: Kevin Olsen will play guitar at halftime. Who’s Kevin Olsen? I wish I could tell you.
10. Georgia Tech (up 1)
Record: 17-12 (7-9 ACC)
Last week: 75-73 W vs. Clemson, 76-71 W at Boston College
This week: March 1 at No. 11 Louisville, March 5 vs. Pittsburgh
The Ramblin’ Wreck makes me proud, even though I have no connection to Georgia Tech. That’s because two weeks ago, Georgia Tech was 13-12 (3-9 ACC) — and now? Now, the Yellow Jackets are the winners of four in row and heading to Louisville looking for a fifth.
It shows that it’s almost always possible to turn the corner. Who knows — maybe Kwame, Darko or Anthony Bennett will pan out someday. Bennett really could — he’s only 22.
9. Clemson (no change)
Record: 16-12 (9-7 ACC)
Last week: 73-75 L at Georgia Tech
This week: March 1 vs. No. 4 Virginia, March 5 at Boston College
For the Tigers, this week’s games carry real weight, because two wins might just thrust them back into the conversation for an NCAA bid. Right now, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi doesn’t list Clemson among his “First Four Out” or his “Next Four,” so coach Brad Brownell’s team is certainly in need of W’s. Like always, the Tigers will look to star forward Jaron Blossomgame Tuesday against our Cavs.
8. Syracuse (no change)
Record: 19-11 (9-8 ACC)
Last week: 75-66 W vs. NC State
This week: 70-75 L at No. 8 North Carolina, March 5 at Florida State
Holy cow, did you see what Michael Gbinije did to NC State Saturday afternoon? The 6-foot-7 forward was looking for his shot and finding net. Gbinije posted a career-high 34 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 8 of 13 from distance. He doled out six assists and, as if that wasn’t enough, swatted three shots — this from a player who’d blocked just seven shots all season.
7. Notre Dame (down 1)
Record: 19-9 (10-6 ACC)
Last week: 69-58 W at Wake Forest, 56-77 L at Florida State
This week: March 2 vs. No. 7 Miami, March 5 vs. NC State
The Irish are wobbling just a bit entering this last week of regular-season ball. In their last three games, they’ve fallen to Florida State and Georgia Tech while cutting it fairly close against Wake — this after reeling off consecutive wins against Carolina, Clemson and Louisville. Miami — one of the biggest movers in this week’s AP Top 25 — won’t offer a reprieve, so Notre Dame will have to be on point Wednesday at home.
6. Pittsburgh (up 1)
Record: 20-8 (9-7 ACC)
Last week: 60-67 L vs. No. 11 Louisville, 76-62 W vs. No. 15 Duke
This week: March 2 at Virginia Tech, March 5 at Georgia Tech
I’d given up on Pittsburgh — no lie. But with Sunday afternoon’s easy win against Duke, the Panthers seem to have new life. Coach Jamie Dixon’s team shared the ball like the Spurs, with six players scoring nine-plus points. Senior floor general James Robinson dished out seven assists against a single turnover as the Panthers dropped 20 dimes as a team.
5. Duke (no change)
Record: 21-8 (10-6 ACC)
Last week: 80-65 W vs. Florida State, 62-76 L at Pittsburgh
This week: March 1 vs. Wake Forest, March 5 vs. No. 8 North Carolina
Everyone’s talking about Grayson Allen — how he’s become the NCAA’s Matthew Dellavedova — and I can see why. Tripping isn’t clean basketball.
But let’s move on to the Blue Devil rotation. Even with Matt Jones back from a sprained ankle, Duke doesn’t have the depth of, say, Virginia or North Carolina. Coach K only seems comfortable playing seven guys — like, for any amount of time. What happens if Brandon Ingram or Grayson Allen truly has a bad game?
4. Louisville (no change)
Record: 22-7 (11-5 ACC)
Last week: 67-60 W at Pittsburgh, 65-73 L at No. 12 Miami
This week: March 1 vs. Georgia Tech, March 5 at No. 4 Virginia
The Cardinals have quite the home-road split this season — at the KFC Yum! Center, they’re 18-1, and elsewhere they’re 4-6. Saturday, Louisville comes to Charlottesville, where Virginia hasn’t lost a game all season. But I expect coach Rick Pitino’s crew to give the Cavaliers a game. That’s because Virginia dealt Louisville its lone home loss, and it’s also because for Cardinal graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, Saturday is a swan song.
3. North Carolina (down 2)
Record: 24-6 (13-4 ACC)
Last week: 80-68 W at NC State, 74-79 L at No. 3 Virginia
This week: 75-70 W vs. Syracuse , March 5 at No. 17 Duke
A couple of weeks ago, I said Marcus Paige was my favorite ACC basketball player, but right now I’m not so sure. The Paige I remembered doesn’t play like the Paige who’s taking the court now. At present, the Tar Heel guard isn’t putting much pressure on opposing defenses — he’s mostly a 3-point shooter in a serious slump. I’d like to see him attack the basket and use the touch I’ve long admired.
2. Virginia (up 1)
Record: 22-6 (11-5 ACC)
Last week: 61-64 L at No. 12 Miami, 79-74 W vs. No. 7 North Carolina
This week: March 1 at Clemson, March 5 vs. No. 11 Louisville
Is this the year our Cavaliers make real noise in March? It’s impossible to say, but Virginia seems to be peaking at the right time. A midseason lull had folks wondering if the 2015-16 season was a lost one. But now Malcolm Brogdon is making his case for ACC Player of the Year, Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins are emerging as reliable starters, and ESPN College GameDay showed off a Cavalier win. Not too bad, right?
1. Miami (up 1)
Record: 23-5 (12-4 ACC)
Last week: 64-61 W vs. No. 3 Virginia, 73-65 W vs. No. 11 Louisville
This week: March 2 at Notre Dame, March 5 at Virginia Tech
Miami hops to the top in this week’s rankings after home wins against Virginia and Louisville, victories that pushed the Hurricanes up to No. 7 in this week’s AP poll. On Senior Day, point guard Angel Rodriguez played clean, strong basketball, coming up with 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds while committing just one turnover.
Coach Jim Larrañaga also started senior forward Ivan Cruz Uceda alongside usual senior starters Tonye Jekiri and Sheldon McClellan, and the stretch four responded with three 3-pointers. I’ve always been a fan of coaches who start their seniors on Senior Day.