Caught a little flack last week for putting FSU in the top spot, but they did enough to quell the haters, slapping Wake Forest in Winston-Salem last week in the Seminoles' only game of the week. The same names occupy the rest of the top four, with Duke and UNC flipping. And there's a Jenga-filled mess after that.
1.) Florida St. Seminoles: Reason explained above. Florida State stays at home this week, getting a reeling Georgia Tech team on Wednesday before a marquee matchup (First To 50!) against Virginia on Saturday that gives FSU a chance at another statement ACC win.
2.) North Carolina Tar Heels: UNC is really coming on strong now. The Heels dispatched N.C. State with ease after a surprisingly good defensive performance in the first half and coasted in a win over Georgia Tech on Sunday. UNC is the most balanced team in the ACC, and even without Dexter Strickland, still has one of the tallest and most athletic squads (2nd in effective height) in the country. As long as Kendall Marshall doesn't burn out, and the Heels can answer questions about their ability to win on the road, they are well on their way to a solid finish.
3.) Duke Blue Devils: Duke can score. We know that. But the Blue Devils are really struggling defensively. They are down to 94th in defensive efficiency after letting a mediocre St. John's team drop 76 points on them at Cameron. While the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly do a good job of clogging up the lane, Duke's guards are scorers first and defenders a not-so-distant second. For the Blue Devils to have success come March, the defensive intensity has got to improve.
4.) Virginia Cavaliers: They aren't pretty, but they get the job done more often than not. The Cavs are in a position to win every game they play, and they just have to stay afloat until they can get Assane Sene back for the stretch run (ACCT+NCAAT).
5.) N.C. State Wolfpack: State really needed to win the UNC game, or at least the Virginia one. The Pack have played well enough to win in stretches, but haven't broken through. They have a three-game stretch against BC, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech that should be enough remedy to right the ship.
6.) Miami Hurricanes: The 'Canes might finally be learning that you just have to beat the teams on your schedule to be successful. Miami was able to easily take care of both Georgia Tech and Boston College this week to put them back at .500 in conference. They still need more consistency out of their playmakers, but it looks like Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant have finally started to take their leadership roles to heart.
7.) Clemson Tigers: Clemson is also riding a two-game win streak. The Tigers' lone game last week was against Wake Forest, and even though they had another extended anemic stretch offensively, Clemson was able to pull it together to take the lead and control the second half against the Demon Deacons. Brad Brownell's team doesn't have a ton of solid players, but they play hard, and sometimes that's enough.
8.) Maryland Terrapins: The Terps' biggest problem is their lack of buckets in transition. They are near the bottom of the country in steals and forcing turnovers, and the lack of easy buckets forces Maryland to play extra hard in their half-court sets. The Terrapins are slipping a bit, and play three of their next four on the road. Hopefully, the close win against Virginia Tech on Saturday can serve as a kick in the pants.
9.) Wake Forest Demon Deacons: The 9-12 spots are all up for grabs right now. Wake just sits here by default. The Demon Deacons looked completely disinterested in losses to both Florida State and Clemson and seem to be regressing. They've lost four of their last five, with the lone win coming against Boston College, owner of an impressive 272 KenPom ranking. Since conference play started, the Deacs have scored 70 points just twice, in the BC win and the 91-73 loss to Duke. Wake is averaging just 60.2 points in its last nine games.
10.) Virginia Tech Hokies: It isn't really showing, but VT has played a lot better lately. The Hokies' last seven games have been decided by an average of 4.4 points (and that's including the 14-point loss to UNC), and Virginia Tech has been on the losing end of six of them. Bad luck, youth and questionable coaching have all contributed to VT's 1-5 ACC start.
11.) Boston College Eagles: The Eagles are just too young. Lately, they've been playing teams close for about 30 minutes before completely running out of gas and collapsing. And now they're out Patrick Heckmann for up to a month with mono. That was one of the last things BC needed.
12.) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The only thing that got more questions than me putting Florida State at the top last week was me throwing Georgia Tech at the bottom. They've lost nine of their last 10 (by an average of 12.8 points), but luckily the second half of the ACC slate is pretty favorable (including two games apiece against Wake and BC and home games against both Maryland and Clemson). Frankly, GT has done nothing to warrant moving above BC until they can get a second ACC win. It won't come Wednesday, as the Jackets play Florida State in Tallahassee, but the world will certainly be watching when Georgia Tech battles Boston College on Saturday.