Irish Stew: ACC men's basketball power rankings (Week of Jan. 8)

IRISH STEW

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

We should have seen this coming.

When Boston College beat then-No. 1 Duke in early December to open Atlantic Coast Conference play, it should have served as a sure sign that there would be more wackiness and weird wins to follow.

That wacky weirdness has arrived. We’re only one full week into league play, and the ACC standings look like the Joyce Center parking lots following a Notre Dame home football weekend.

A mess.

Who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s trending? Who’s not? Here are the ACC rankings of NDI Insider Tom Noie for the week of Jan. 8. Rankings are based SOLELY on ACC play. All that preseason hype and non-conference stuff doesn’t matter, which is why you’ll find two of the league’s flagship programs floundering toward the bottom of the 15-team league. For now.

Coaches’ quotes come from the Jan. 8 league teleconference.

1. VIRGINIA (14-1 overall; 3-0 ACC)

Noting: The Cavaliers are again doing it with defense. Coach Tony Bennett’s club currently leads the league – and the nation – in scoring defense at 52.5 ppg.

Quoting: “I’m really enjoying coaching my team. There’s something good about them, win or lose. I really didn’t know what to expect. There was a chance if the young guys stepped up … that we could be solid. There’s so much more to bear out as the conference race gets going. Am I happy where we’re at? Of course I am.”

-Virginia coach Tony Bennett

2. CLEMSON (14-1; 3-0)

Noting: With five returning veterans all averaging double figures for points, the Tigers are off to their best ACC start since 2006-07 and best overall start since 2008-09.

Quoting: “Certainly gotten off to a good start. Like how my guys have been playing. We can win a couple different ways, which makes us better than last year.”

-Clemson coach Brad Brownell

3. NOTRE DAME (13-3; 3-0)

Noting: No Bonzie Colson. No Matt Farrell. No problem for Mike Brey’s bunch who stole a win Saturday at Syracuse while grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. As impressive a win as Mike Brey’s had in South Bend during his 18 seasons, which is saying something. Saying a lot.

Quoting: "We've had quite an adventure out here."

-Notre Dame coach Mike Brey

4. MIAMI (Fla.) (13-2; 2-1)

Noting: Hurricane should be 3-0 in league play save for an inexplicable loss at Georgia Tech.

Quoting: “We had an interesting week.”

-Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who finished a stretch of six-straight games away from home before Sunday’s home win over Florida State.

5. BOSTON COLLEGE (11-5; 2-2)

Noting: The Eagles have already matched their combined league win total the previous two years. Plenty of positives in The Heights for one of the league’s good guys, coach Jim Christian.

Quoting: “We’re trying to find some consistency for 40 minutes. When everybody is playing the right way and we’re sharing the basketball, we can be formidable in any environment.”

-Boston College coach Jim Christian

6. FLORIDA STATE (12-3; 1-2)

Noting: The Seminoles score plenty of points (84.6 per game) and play plenty of guys (nine average at least 14.1 mpg.).

Quoting: “We are a team that’s really dominated by first- and second-year players. We’ve had to be really connected and play to each other. We’ve had very little room for error. This is a tough period.”

-Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton

7. VIRGINIA TECH (12-4; 1-2)

Noting: How good are they? The Hokies fattened up in non-league with a schedule (276) that ranks among nation’s easiest.

Quoting: “It’s hard to play as hard as you have to. It takes time and I don’t know if there’s any shortcuts to it.”

-Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams

8. NORTH CAROLINA STATE (11-5; 1-2)

Noting: Whacked Wednesday by 30 points at Notre Dame, North Carolina State showed plenty of resolve in returning home and beating Duke, 96-85, when coach Kevin Keatts’ crew could have rolled over.

Quoting: “We’re a team without a superstar, so in order for us to win, we’ve got to all play on the same page. We have such a low margin for error.”

-North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts

9. GEORGIA TECH (8-7; 1-1)

Noting: Tech prepared for Wednesday’s early-season rematch with Notre Dame by beating Yale.

Quoting: “We are getting better. Post-Christmas, we’ve finally been able to get practices and get guys healthy. I don’t know if it’s going to translate to wins. Hopefully we can keep it on the right path.”

-Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner

10. LOUISVILLE (11-4; 1-1)

Noting: Louisville kept it close in taking Clemson to overtime, but doesn’t have anyone who can go and get a bucket when a bucket is needed. It’s sometimes painful to watch compared to its teams under former coach Rick Pitino.

Quoting: “We’ve got to learn to take care of the ball at crunch time.”

-Louisville interim coach David Padgett

11. NORTH CAROLINA (12-4; 1-2)

Noting: Defending national champions cannot win on the road. No shame in losing in Tallahassee, Fla., and in Charlottesville, Va., but figure Carolina would be better in both spots. Heels weren’t.

Quoting: “We’re not feeling really well because we’ve lost two in a row. We’ve got some wounds that we’re trying to lick.”

-North Carolina coach Roy Williams

12. DUKE (13-2; 1-2)

Noting: Blue Devils are arguably most talented team in the country but their indifference to defend (they’ve allow a staggering 92.6 ppg in league play) will be a red flag come tournament time.

Quoting: "We're playing just horrible defense. We understand that. We're working on it. That's all you can do. Hopefully we can show improvement in that area."

-Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

13. SYRACUSE (12-4; 1-2)

Noting: Former Irish coach Digger Phelps told NDI that it was the worst Syracuse team he’s seen in 40 years after Saturday’s loss to Notre Dame. Hard to argue. Orange don’t do anything really well.

Quoting: “We just can’t score. It takes a long time for us to get a good shot, a very good shot. We’re just not a team that can run unless we get a long miss or a turnover. We’re not really good in transition.”

-Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

14. WAKE FOREST (8-7; 1-2)

Noting: Weekend loss at Boston College, where they won last year, means Deacons haven’t posted wins at same road arena in consecutive seasons since 2009-10.

Quoting: “We’ve got to be able to attack teams in the open court at times and get some easy opportunities.”

-Wake Forest coach Danny Manning

15. PITTSBURGH (8-8; 0-3)

Noting: Pittsburgh is averaging a staggering 3,522 fans at 12,508-seat Petersen Events Center.

Quoting: “We’re getting better. It’s not showing up in the win column, but our team is improving. It’s challenging, but at the same time we’ve got a great group of guys.”

-Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings

Virginia's Devon Hall (0) dunks against North Carolina during first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville ,Va., Sat. Jan. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/ Lee Luther Jr.)