Conference Power Rankings: ACC is Duke’s domain


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Coach Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils currently lead the midseason ACC basketball rankings.

By Kyle Saxon, Staff Writer

As the halfway mark of the college basketball season approaches, ushering in the marathon of conference play across the nation, one thing is clear –– parity is this year’s defining trait.

Usually, several teams and conferences have established themselves as dominant by January, but no such thing has happened this season. The ACC, college basketball’s gold standard, is not clearly the best in the country this year, nor is there a clear favorite to win the conference.

Four teams have established themselves to be the top tier of the ACC in 2020, but the rest of the conference appears to be entirely for the taking. Although they are sure to look vastly different by March, or even next week, here are the midseason ACC basketball power rankings.

1. Duke (13-1, 3-0 ACC)

Other than a breathtaking early home loss at the hands of Stephen F. Austin, the Blue Devils have been the most consistently excellent team in the conference thus far. Mike Krzyzewski has once again guided a group of star first-years to success. First-year center Vernon Carey Jr. has played like a National Player of the Year candidate and sophomore guard Tre Jones has improved as the team’s floor general and leader. Duke boasts a No. 2 national ranking, along with impressive victories on neutral courts against Kansas and Georgetown as well as on the road at Michigan State.

2. Florida State (13-2, 3-1 ACC)

Despite losing a great deal of talent and leadership this offseason, Leonard Hamilton’s group has returned with a vengeance. The Seminoles have bounced back from an opening loss at Pittsburgh stronger than ever, with huge wins over Florida, Tennessee, Purdue and Louisville.

Offense was the pressing question for this Florida State squad, and the duo of senior guard Trent Forrest and sophomore forward Devin Vassell have answered the call. Expect another big year from the No. 10 nationally ranked Seminoles.

3. Louisville (11-3, 2-1 ACC)

The Cardinals came into this season as a trendy pick to win the conference, and they’ve lived up to the hype thus far. However, setbacks against Texas Tech, Kentucky and Florida State sank Louisville to No. 13 in the nation, and third in the power rankings.

But Chris Mack has done a phenomenal job, and his team is poised to grow from losses against three likely tournament teams. Third-year forward Jordan Nwora has been a superstar and leader for Louisville, who remain in strong position to make a run at the ACC title.

4. Virginia (11-2, 3-0 ACC)

Despite very ugly losses at the hands of Purdue and South Carolina, the No. 18 Cavaliers seem to have finally found their stride. This comes as no surprise in Charlottesville. Tony Bennett has proven he can consistently compete regardless of the talent on his roster. Offense is still a struggle, as should be expected given the production lost in the offseason.

The defending national champions still boast the best defense in the nation, as well as a convincing home win over a healthy North Carolina group, and will look to build their recent momentum as they hit the more difficult games in their schedule.

5. NC State (10-4, 1-2 ACC)

Coming off of a disappointing loss against Clemson, the Wolfpack earn the fifth spot in the power rankings by default. Kevin Keatts has an experienced, tournament-caliber team this season, but NC State will have to win big games to make it into the dance. Despite a worthy record last season, their lack of signature victories left them stunned on Selection Sunday. Senior guards Markell Johnson and Braxton Beverly are one of the best backcourts in the conference, and play with an edge all year to redeem last year’s snub.

6. Notre Dame (10-4, 1-2 ACC)

Notre Dame, much like every other ACC team, has stumbled at times throughout the early part of the season. However, the Fighting Irish just picked up a huge road win over Syracuse and will look to carry that momentum into the grueling part of their schedule.

Senior forward John Mooney is playing at an All-American level, and Notre Dame has some serious firepower on the wing as well. Mike Brey has the pieces to put Notre Dame back on the map this season, and it will be interesting to see how they fare against top competition.

7. North Carolina (8-6, 1-2 ACC)

The loss of star first-year guard Cole Anthony has been felt hard by the Tar Heels. Although they are stocked with talent all around, they were dependent on Anthony, and it is not easy to adjust to such a loss. After being walloped at home by a rather weak Georgia Tech team, Roy Williams and his remaining group will have to look in the mirror and get it together to stay afloat until Anthony’s return. Carolina will likely end the season in the top 5 of the ACC, but only if the team adjusts to its superstar’s absence.

8. Pittsburgh (10-4, 1-2 ACC)

After an impressive home victory against perennial powerhouse Florida State, it has been hard to get a read on where Pitt stands in the ACC. The Panthers are a stout defensive team, but are also prone to devastatingly long scoring droughts, and their periodic offensive incompetence squandered real opportunities to defeat West Virginia, Louisville and Wake Forest. Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens need to take charge offensively and play like the All-ACC caliber players they are for the Panthers to be successful.

9. Miami (9-4, 1-2 ACC)

Miami has a solid record, but have not defeated any quality opponents, with the exception of a win over Illinois. Chris Lykes is one of the most dynamic players in the conference, and Miami has some experience and plenty of talent. However, the Hurricanes will not have a chance at making the tournament unless they pick up some marquee wins in conference play.

10. Virginia Tech (10-4, 1-2 ACC)

Projected to be the worst team in the conference this year, first-year coach Mike Young has done a phenomenal job molding this group. They returned zero key players from last season, and yet picked up a colossal early victory over Michigan State in Maui.

The Hokies have faltered as of late, and it is quite likely that they still end up being a bottom feeder in the conference. However, the promise they showed early should give this group the confidence to put together a successful season.

11. Syracuse (8-6, 1-2 ACC)

The Orange lost four of their starters from last season, and are understandably struggling. Senior guard Elijah Hughes has been phenomenal, and Syracuse has a plethora of high-potential players. Unfortunately for Jim Boeheim’s squad, it is hard to win without experience in the ACC. Of course they will be competitive with most teams, but barring a dramatic turnaround, this season will likely be a disappointing one for Syracuse.

12. Georgia Tech (7-7, 2-2 ACC)

Georgia Tech is a familiar brand of frisky. They have been known for having a poor overall record, yet possess the ability to beat any team on any night. They showed this ability with a road upset win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. With a postseason ban in effect this season, this year will be one of growth for Josh Pastner’s team, and they have certainly shown some so far.

13. Wake Forest (8-5, 1-2 ACC)

Wake Forest lacks the talent necessary to be a serious player in the ACC, but they have still shown the ability to be competitive on any given night. They have picked up huge wins against a then-nationally ranked Xavier team and a solid Pittsburgh squad. Wake Forest will finish in the bottom five spots of the conference, but still pick up a few more upsets along the way.

14. Clemson (7-7, 1-3 ACC)

The Tigers lost the majority of their roster after stringing together a few tournament appearances in recent years. This year is one of rebuilding for Brad Brownell and the Tigers, but with the parity present in the ACC this season, they can certainly pick up more morale-boosting wins in 2020.

15. Boston College (8-6, 2-1 ACC)

Despite exceeding expectations early with conference victories over Georgia Tech and Notre Dame, Boston College is undoubtedly the worst team in the conference. They were dismantled at home by a poor Northwestern team, and looked like a mid-major opponent against Duke.

That said, the Golden Eagles are in their first year with a new coach and an inexperienced roster. They may pick up a few more wins over some of the less talented ACC teams but overall, this season will be ugly for Boston College.