With ACC play upon us, here are updated power rankings. Once again, I have put teams into 5 "tiers" where I think that there is a larger drop-off between two groups of teams. I've also included when (and how many times) UVA plays each team in the conference. From looking at that, you can get an idea of how the unbalanced schedule will favor Virginia this season.
Read up, and let me know your thoughts and disagreements.
1. Duke Record: 13-0.....AP Poll Rank: 1.....KenPom Rank: 2.....Best win: vs. Louisville (neutral).....Worst loss: N/A
Despite entering the season without the fanfare that Duke typically enjoys, the Dookies have put together arguably the nation's most impressive non-conference performance. They'll be the team to beat in the ACC. Mason Plumlee has not only learned how to shoot free throws, but actually goes to the line at a higher clip then last season; he is a Wooden Award favorite.
Matchups: vs. Duke - Thursday 2/28, 9 PM, ESPN/ESPN2
2. NC State Record: 11-2.....AP Poll Rank: 23.....KenPom Rank: 34.....Best win: vs. UConn (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. Oklahoma State (neutral)
After coming into the season ranked in the AP Top 10 and picked to win the ACC, NC State seems to have dropped off everybody's radar. This isn't entirely fair, as their two losses are at Michigan and vs. Oklahoma St. Their experienced team is playing as everyone suspected, and I suspect CJ Leslie and Richard Howell will be making plenty of noise as the season progresses. These guys will be tough to beat.
Matchups: vs. NC State - Tuesday 1/29, 7PM, ESPN2
3. North Carolina Record: 10-3.....AP Poll Rank: 27.....KenPom Rank: 35.....Best win: vs. UNLV....Worst loss: vs. Butler (neutral)
By beating UNLV in Chapel Hill last week, the Tar Heels succeeded in their final chance to beat an OOC ranked in KenPom's top 150. With Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller moving to the NBA, and John Henson graduating to pursue a career in acting (I think), UNC doesn't have nearly the amount of weapons as in years past. They'll only improve as the year progresses, but the Hoos have a big chance to knock them off this weekend, especially if Akil Mitchell (with likely double-team help) can hold down James Michael McAdoo.
Matchups: vs. UNC, Sunday 1/6, 8PM, ESPNU. @ UNC, Saturday 2/16, 12PM, ESPN3
4. Maryland Record: 12-1.....KenPom Rank: 56.....Best win: @ Northwestern.....Only loss: (vs. Kentucky (neutral))
Maryland remains a bit of a mystery; they started the year off with a close loss against Kentucky, then have gone on to win 12 straight. Alone, none of those wins is particularly impressive. Together, they likely signal that Maryland is likely for real, especially considering none of those 12 were particularly close.
Matchups: @ UMD, Sunday 2/10, 1 PM, ESPN3. vs. UMD, Sunday 3/10, 6PM, ESPNU
5. Virginia Record: 10-3.....KenPom Rank: 26.....Best win: @ Wisconsin.....Worst loss: vs. ODU (Neutral)
Yes, that KenPom ranking is likely inflated (we surged 8 spots after going 1-1 against ODU and Wofford). And yes we lost to ODU. But at this point in the season, the Hoos are in decent shape. UVA's offense has adapted to the loss of Mike Scott surprisingly well, with a more balanced attack and growth of Akil Mitchell actually leading to a more efficient unit than in 2011-2012. The defense is what needs to continue to improve to reach last season's elite level, and much of that depends on Jontel Evan's return.
I'm giving us the benefit of the doubt over Miami, who is sloppy at times and lost twice last week, and giving Maryland the benefit of the doubt over us, since they didn't lose to ODU.
Matchups: Daily, practice, JPJ.
6. Miami Record: 9-3.....KenPom Rank: 25.....Best win: vs. MSU.....Worst loss: @ Florida Gulf Coast
Losing Reggie Jackson for most of the ACC season with a thumb injury is a major blow to the Hurricanes' hopes of playing in March. With him, Kenny Kadji, and Durand Scott, Miami had an impressive trio of seniors, the type of experience that translates into wins. However, Miami lost 2 of its first 3 games without Johnson; at the very least they will go through an adjustment period.
Matchups: @ Miami, Tuesday 2/19, 9PM, ESPNU
7. Georgia Tech Record: 10-2.....KenPom Rank: 62.....Best win: vs. St. Mary's (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. California (neutral)
The Yellow Jackets have come on surprisingly strong, winning their last 6 games. They finished their out-of-conference without a single "bad" loss. Their youth may cause them to hit some stumbling blocks in ACC play, but their defense allows them to be a potential surprise pick to move up in the ACC this year.
Matchups: @ GT, Sunday 2/3, 3PM, ESPNU. vs. GT, Sunday 2/24, 2PM, ESPN3
8. Clemson Record: 8-4....KenPom Rank: 70.....Best win: vs. UTEP (neutral).....Worst loss: @ Coastal Carolina
Dropping a game at Coastal Carolina hurt Clemson's RPI almost as much as beating South Carolina State and The Citadel, two of the nation's worst teams. After floundering a bit against a poor OOC schedule, Clemson has underperformed to date considering the interior experience of Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. A puzzling tendency for the offense to disappear is to blame - scoring .7 points per possession against Coastal Carolina is baffling.
Matchups: @ Clemson, Saturday 1/12, 12PM, ESPN3. vs. Clemson, Thursday 2/7, 7PM, ESPN/ESPN2.
9. Virginia Tech Record: 9-4.....KenPom Rank: 131.....Best win: vs. Oklahoma St......Worst Loss: vs. Georgia Southern
Unsurprisngly, the Hokies have fallen back to Earth. After a 7-0 start that had our
friends peers conference-mates to the southwest giddy, Tech has dropped 4 of 6, and Hokie fans have returned to ignoring basketball. VT is not as bad as the team that lost at home to Georgia Southern, but their fast start was mostly inflated. Potential ACC-First Teamer Erick Green is a scary player; it will be nice to have a fully recovered Jontel Evans ready to guard him.
Matchups: @ VT, Thursday 1/23, 8PM, ESPN3. vs. VT, Tuesday 2/12, 7PM, ESPNU
10. Florida State Record: 8-5.....KenPom Rank: 74.....Best win: vs. BYU (neutral).....Worst loss: vs. South Alabama
The Seminoles are taking surprisingly long to click. I expected Leonard Hamilton to have his squad competing around the middle of the ACC, but Michael Snaer hasn't been enough to lead a team with such youth. FSU also is not playing nearly the type of defense Hamilton is accustomed to; thirteen games into the season, the Noles have played by far the least efficient defense in his 11 years as head coach.
Matchups: vs. FSU, Saturday 1/19, 4PM, ESPN3. @ FSU, Thursday 3/7, 7PM, ESPN/ESPN2
11. Boston College Record: 8-5.....KenPom Rank: 145.....Best win: vs. Providence.....Worst loss: vs. Bryant
Don't let the Golden Eagles' 5-game winning streak fool you - BC isn't very good. I don't expect the type of futility we saw last season, and they'll be a step above Wake Forest, but both teams should compose the ACC basement.
Matchups: vs. BC, Saturday 1/26, 1PM, ESPN3. @ BC, Sunday 3/3, 3PM, ESPN3
12. Wake Forest Record: 7-5.....KenPom Rank: 169.....Best win: vs. Xavier.....Worst loss: vs. Nebraska
Wake Forest's win over Xavier was a decent one, but these guys are in BC's boat. The good news is that Wake isn't quite as pathetic as last season; the improvement of the bottom of the conference has gone most of the way toward making the ACC look better. Jeff Bzdelik is a poor coach, and, in case you missed it, his radio show isn't going well either.
Matchups: @ WF, Wednesday 1/9, 9PM, ESPN3