1. Miami (15-3, 6-0)
Next Week: at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina State
We may have laughed when the Hurricanes lost to Florida Gulf Coast on November 13th, but no one is laughing after their 90-63 annihilation of the Duke Blue Devils last Wednesday. They have one of the most experienced teams in the nation, as they have 5 seniors who see significant playing time, and a sensational sophomore point guard in Shane Larkin. This team is projected to go 15-3 in conference, which could help them land a #1 seed in the ACC Tournament and possibly even in the NCAA Tournament. Jim Larranaga continues to prove that he was a dynamite hire, and has a legitimate shot of returning to the Final Four with this year's squad.
2. North Carolina State (16-4, 5-2)
Next Week: at Virginia, vs. Miami
The Wolfpack definitely have the most talent in the league; the problem is that they don't have the discipline. They lost to Maryland on the road because they didn't finish the play and box-out the offensive rebounder, and they lost to Wake Forest because they didn't have the appropriate mental intensity for 40 minutes. This mental lapse was made evident again on Saturday night in their defeat of the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Wolfpack were absolutely whipping North Carolina in ever facet of the game, but they let up and allowed North Carolina to make a game of it. This team has the talent to make it to the Final Four, but they also have the discipline of a team who could lose during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
3. Duke (17-2, 4-2)
Next Week: at Wake Forest, at Florida State
Duke would have been a clear number one in my eyes prior to the Ryan Kelly injury. The Blue Devils defeated Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, and Ohio State in non-conference play, which is nothing short of incredible. This team still has plenty of talent in seniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry along with underclassmen standouts Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, and Rasheed Sulaimon, but without Kelly they are not a national championship contender.
4. Virginia (14-5, 4-2)
Next Week: vs. North Carolina State, at Georgia Tech
The pack line defense certainly isn't sexy, but when Virginia runs it to perfection it's incredibly effective. The pack line, which was developed by Tony Bennett's father, helped them defeat a very good Wisconsin team. This is the same Wisconsin team that went into Assembly Hall and defeated Indiana not too long ago. Virginia also methodically defeated the Tar Heels in their conference opener and only allowed a mere 36 points to Florida State. Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation, which is a double edged sword as it enables them to beat any one in the nation, but it also makes them more prone to upsets such as their 63-61 loss to Old Dominion. Tony Bennett has done an outstanding job so far at Virginia and his defense will only become more effective as he brings in more highly-touted recruits like Justin Anderson to play for him.
5. North Carolina (13-6, 3-3)
Next Week: at Boston College, vs. Virginia Tech
The road has not been very kind to the Tar Heels this season. 5 of their 6 losses have occurred away from the Dean Dome and have all been by 8 or more points. James Michael McAdoo has been solid this season, but he has come nowhere near the media hype suggesting he might be a top 5 NBA draft pick this year. Instead, he is shooting only 46% from the field and a miserable 59% from the foul line. The freshmen on this team are talented, but they are very raw and Marcus Paige is a turnover waiting to happen. Given that they still have two games remaining against Duke, and road games at Maryland and Miami, respectively, the Tar Heels could struggle to make the NCAA Tournament this season.
6. Florida State (11-8, 3-3)
Next Week: vs. Maryland, vs. Duke
The Seminoles have had several bad losses this season (South Alabama, Mercer and Auburn), but they've also been able to defeat ACC counterparts Clemson (twice) and Maryland. They certainly won't be repeating as ACC Champions, but in this ACC they can still finish close to .500 in conference play. Moving forward they must do a better job on the defensive glass as they allow their opponents to collect 36.7% of their misses. Additionally, they need to protect the ball better as they turn the ball over 22.3% of the time. It's definitely a rebuilding year for Leonard Hamilton, but if they land Andrew Wiggins, then the rebuilding process won't last past this season.
7. Maryland (15-5, 3-4)
Next Week: at Florida State, vs. Wake Forest
We thought Maryland was going to be very good this season after we saw them go toe-to-toe with the Kentucky Wildcats in the Barclay's Center on opening night. Since then we've discovered that this year's freshman class at Kentucky is not nearly as talented as the class featuring Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Still, Maryland is a much improved team this year. They landed an outstanding transfer in Dez Wells and Alex Len continues to develop and has Lottery written all over him. This team absolutely pounds the glass and collects 40% of their misses, which is good for 7th best nationally. The Terps, however, turn the ball over on 22% of their possessions, which they must cut down as their season continues.
8. Clemson (11-8, 3-4)
Next Week: vs. Georgia Tech, at Boston College
Clemson is a very solid defensive team and their length allows them to play such solid defense. Clemson doesn't have any 7-footers patrolling the lane, but rather a multitude of athletes who are 6'6" or taller. This length and athleticism has enabled Clemson to block over 14% of their opponents' shot attempts. Their length has also enabled them to force their opponents to have to pump fake 3 pointers and instead shoot long twos. There is no real such thing as 3 point defense, in terms of percentages. The real defense is forcing opponents inside the arc and limiting 3 point attempts. Their defense and slow pace of play should keep them in most games, but they will probably finish sub .500 in conference play.
9. Wake Forest (10-9, 3-4)
Next Week: vs. Duke, at Maryland
The Demon Deacons have had their share of ups and downs in Jeff Bzdelik's third season in Winston-Salem. The Deacs have had some very impressive wins including Virginia, North Carolina State, plus a very hard-fought game against Connecticut. But the Deacs have also laid some Grade A eggs including Iona (at one point we were down 30-3 and at another we were down 41-5), Nebraska and Georgia Tech (don't worry, we'll just spot Georgia Tech 16). Their next three games include a home contest against Duke and road games at Maryland and North Carolina. If those games go as expected, then the Deacs will find themselves lower in the rankings next week.
10. Boston College (9-10, 1-5)
Next Week: vs. North Carolina, vs. Clemson
Boston College certainly is not a juggernaut, but Steve Donahue is to be commended for taking the Eagles from 259th in KenPom at the end of last season up to 119th where they currently stand. They only stand to get better as they will only lose one of the nine players in their rotation after this season. This team may only be 1-5 in conference, but they only lost at Wake Forest and Maryland by a combined 8 points, and lost to Miami and North Carolina State at home by combined 6 points. I wouldn't be shocked if Boston College pulled an upset in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
11. Virginia Tech (11-8, 2-4)
Next Week: vs. Miami, at North Carolina
The Hokies are pretty much Erick Green or bust. The senior guard plays over 35 minutes per game and takes nearly one-third of his team's shots while he is on the court. Green has an excellent true shooting percentage, but to quote Bart Scott "they can't stop a nose bleed." They allow 106 points per 100 possessions on the season, and are allowing nearly 115 points per 100 possessions in conference play. They will be underdogs in each of their remaining games and things won't get any better next year when they no longer have Green.
12. Georgia Tech (11-7, 1-5)
Next Week: at Clemson, vs. Virginia
I know that KenPom has Georgia Tech as the 8th best team in the conference, and they very well may be, but I simply cannot reward them for their resume. They only have one conference win, they lost to Virginia Tech at home, and they played the 341st hardest non-conference schedule in the country. We'll see how their season plays out, but for now they find themselves in the conference cellar.