A busy week in the ACC had Virginia take its first conference loss, Duke continue to fall (a little), and Syracuse and Notre Dame keep their seasons alive.
A huge week for the Hokies began with a home win over NC State, and ended with their enormous, season-altering win on the road against rival Virginia. The overtime thriller ended with a clutch Kerry Blackshear Jr. layup with 5 seconds remaining. The 18-7 Hokies added an awesome win to their resume, and the tournament committee will not overlook a triumph over what some consider the best team in the country.
The Irish needed a couple of home wins, and they got them. Matt Farrell, T.J. Gibbs, and Rex Pflueger have emerged as a dangerous core for a Bonzie-less team, putting up big numbers in wins over BC and Florida State. At 15-10, it will take a huge effort to squeak into the tournament, but a 19-12 regular season record is very much in play. That could be enough, especially if the Irish can snag one or two wins in the ACC tournament.
The Orange are sitting pretty at 17-8 with their tournament destiny in their own hands. A huge win at Louisville gave them enough momentum to coast to an easy home win over Wake Forest. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard led the way over the Cardinals, and more standout performances from Howard will be needed to make a deep ACC tournament run and solidify an at-large bid. A daunting conference schedule will make things difficult for Jim Boeheim’s squad, though.
The Tigers had a relaxing week, taking care of Wake Forest on the road then waxing Pitt at home. The 20-4 Tigers have enjoyed sustained success for the first time in several years, and with no ranked teams besides Duke left to play in the regular season, Clemson could conceivably be 25-5 or 26-4 going into the ACC tournament. To do so, they should try to keep holding teams to 48 points, as they did against Pitt.
There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned Duke-North Carolina game. Unfortunately, Dickie V was not on the call, but North Carolina didn’t mind, taking the W 82-78. Joel Berry scored 21 despite three-point woes, and Cameron Johnson logged an 18 point, 13 board double-double. Then, in a potential trap game against NC State, the Tar Heels won by 7 on the back of a Luke Maye career-high 33 point afternoon. Never count the Tar Heels out, especially not when they get hot close to March.
Louisville had a great week, needing the bounceback after three straight losses. Granted, they came against Georgia Tech and Pitt, but wins are wins, especially without Deng Adel in the lineup. At 18-8, a foreboding schedule could potentially limit the Cardinals to as little as two more wins. A team firmly on the bubble, the Cardinals are worth a watch in an otherwise scandal-ridden season.
Duke didn’t have a terrible week, losing on the road to North Carolina, but the loss to St. John’s is still very fresh in the minds of Blue Devil fans, and they wanted a recovery win. Luckily, Duke beat up on Georgia Tech, so all is mostly well for the 20-5 Blue Devils. Every game from here on out is winnable, but their toughest game will be at Clemson on Sunday. A struggling Grayson Allen (though not last night, where he scored 23 points and had 6 assists) must get more consistent to make Duke a serious title contender.
The Wolfpack certainly did not want to lose both games this week. North Carolina wasn’t a bad loss, but a 10 point defeat to Virginia Tech was not ideal for their tournament outlook. NC State still has a decent chance at the tournament, especially with zero ranked teams left on their schedule. Still, Syracuse, Florida State, BC, and Louisville are not guaranteed wins, so the Wolfpack will have to play their best basketball in February and March.
The ‘Noles lost a close game against Virginia and then got beaten on the road against 10-loss Notre Dame. The formerly 17-6 Seminoles are now 17-8 with a murkier tournament outlook. With two matchups against Clemson looming, Florida State must learn from their mistakes and start winning close games. The Notre Dame game was close for 30 minutes, but Florida State let the Irish pull away at the end, something that has to be corrected going forward.
After a big home win over Syracuse last week, the Yellow Jackets have followed up with three straight losses. The 11-14 Jackets are struggling through the last bits of a lost season, though they can take solace knowing that they are still not the worst team in the ACC. Two games against Wake Forest can make their record look a little better at season’s end if they can take advantage of the opportunity.
The Demon Deacons are one of two bottom-barrel teams in the conference. Single-digit losses to Miami and Syracuse have given fans hope for better days next season since their leading scorers (Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods, and Doral Moore) all return. For now, though, Wake Forest is an appetizing matchup for ACC competitors.
Oh, Pitt. What happened? A true ACC dumpster fire, the Panthers have yet to win an ACC game and do not look primed to do so any time soon. Their last win came against Towson (!!!) on December 22, 2017. Back to back blowouts against Clemson and Louisville have not exactly made Pitt fans excited. Hopefully, next year will bring better things, but for now Pitt’s just plain bad.
The Eagles are in the exact same boat as the Irish. 15-10 overall, 5-7 in the ACC, a few must-win games coming up. A huge comeback win over Miami kept their season afloat, but Pitt is the only easy matchup the rest of the way for the Eagles. Just 1-7 on the road, BC takes on NC State, Miami, and FSU all on the road. If this team wants to be taken seriously, these road games must be won.
That undefeated ACC record was bound to be blemished at some point. The 23-2 Cavaliers, a true NCAA championship contender, lost a one-point game at home to Virginia Tech on Saturday, snapping a 15 game win streak. It was a truly remarkable run by a defensive powerhouse. The Cavaliers will look to finish the season strong against a slate of unremarkable opponents, though Miami and Louisville are tough road games looming.
The Hurricanes had a below average week, but a win against Wake Forest kept them from the Losers category. Boston College gave the #25 Canes a close loss on the road, as the shots just couldn’t fall for Miami in the last 6:18. It’s not a great loss, considering that they blew a 7 point lead and didn’t score a point for almost half of the second half. A win against Virginia on the Hurricanes’ home court Tuesday would quickly make fans forget about that loss, though.