Men's Basketball: Only one more week of power rankings after this one, so get going
SOUTH BEND – March is coming. Squint and you can see it out there in the distance. It’s there. See it?
That means it’s getting serious around these here Atlantic Coast Conference rankings. Who’s in good position to grab one of the four double-byes in next month’s league tournament? Who will have to sweat Selection Sunday, now less than three weeks away?
Following are NDI’s ACC power rankings for the week of Feb. 21. Records are as of Monday morning. Quotes from the league’s 15 head coaches are from the Feb. 21 league Zoom conference call unless otherwise noted.
1. Duke (23-4 overall; 13-3 ACC)
Last week: 1
Worth noting: The Blue Devils matched their season high for assists (25) and had a season best 10 dunks in Saturday’s home win over Florida State. It was the second to last home game for outgoing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Worth quoting: "We have to play better. It's a collective responsibility in that regard."
-Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski on this week's rematch with Virginia.
2. Notre Dame (19-8; 12-4)
Last week: 2
Worth noting: Prior to Saturday’s loss at Wake Forest, Notre Dame had lost two league games the previous 62 days.
Worth quoting: "I would say they're best friends in coaching. They're as thick as thieves in league meetings. They'll gang up on you sometimes. Gang up on the commissioner. One is retiring and the other one will coach longer than any of us."
-Irish coach Mike Brey on fellow league coaches Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski.
3. Wake Forest (21-7; 11-6)
Last week: 4
Worth noting: Saturday’s win over Notre Dame clinched Wake Forest’s first winning ACC season since it finished 9-7 in 2009-10.
Worth quoting: "Just not making a big deal about it. There's no difference playing on the road than playing at home. Sometimes teams relax at home because they're at home. I think you're a little more on edge on the road. We are who we are and we just go play. Our players play pretty fearless on the road."
-Demon Deacons coach Steve Forbes
4. North Carolina (19-8; 11-5)
Last week: 6
Worth noting: Saturday marked the 36th time in program history that North Carolina has won at least 11 league games. The Tar Heels have won at least 10 ACC games 45 times, more than any other league school.
Worth quoting: “I didn't necessarily challenge their toughness. I remember the main thing that I said is, I was proud that this season we've always found a way to bounce back. So after the disappointing loss on Wednesday, I had a confidence that we would bounce back - maybe not in this game - but would bounce back and we would play better. I'm so proud of them. There have been times, as I said before, they've been knocked down, they've been scarred and they seem to always get back up and continue to fight.”
-Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis after Saturday’s win at Virginia Tech.
5. Virginia (17-10; 11-6)
Last week: 5
Worth noting: Since the Jan. 29 loss at Notre Dame, Virginia has won five of its last six following Saturday’s win at Miami (Fla.). It will finish with double-digit league wins for a 10th consecutive season.
Worth quoting: "We've gotten used to playing together. The defense can never rest. We continue to chase/pursue quality. We know how air-tight we have to be. Not perfect, but really good, from a defensive standpoint to be in a lot of competitive games. We're a team where the little things matter."
-Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett
6. Miami (Fla.) (19-8; 11-5)
Last week: 3
Worth noting: The Hurricanes finished with advantages of 42-24 for points in the paint and 15-1 for fast-break points in Saturday’s home loss to Virginia, which snapped a three-game win streak.
Worth quoting: "I get to eat some pizza and eat some dirty-water hot dogs while I'm there. Our players really enjoy it."
-Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga on the league tournament in New York
7. Virginia Tech (16-11; 8-8)
Last week: 7
Worth noting: Virginia Tech saw its league high six-game conference win streak snapped Saturday in a home loss to North Carolina. It was the Hokies’ first loss since Jan. 26 at Miami.
Worth quoting: "I've never talked about it. They're aware. But if they're aware, unaware, it's always been the next day, the next game. We still have a clear path to that great tournament. Have we made it more difficult? Yeah. Just practice well today (and) play well on Wednesday. Narrow focus (and) what's next. That's the only thing that matters."
-Hokies coach Mike Young on his team's NCAA tournament outlook
8. Syracuse (14-12; 8-7)
Last week: 8
Worth noting: After a week away from game competition, Syracuse is in a stretch of three league games in five days. It won Saturday at home against Boston College and played Monday at home against Georgia Tech ahead of Wednesday’s game at Notre Dame. That game was originally scheduled for Tuesday before being pushed back.
Worth quoting: “These are tough games. It’s a tough stretch. We’ve got a lot of games in a very short period of time. We just have to get ready and try and play as well as we can.”
-Orange coach Jim Boeheim after Saturday’s win over Boston College.
9. Florida State (14-12; 7-9)
Last week: 9
Worth noting: The Seminoles played (and lost) Saturday at Duke without their usual five starters, all out with injury. Florida State then allowed 52 points in the first half and trailed in the game by as many as 24.
Worth quoting: “This is college basketball. It’s not as bad as it has been. There are four games in eight days, and I try to emphasize that that’s extremely challenging. I think that a lot of teams kind of break down after going through an eight-day stretch playing four games.”
-Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton after Saturday’s loss at Duke.
10. Louisville (12-14; 6-10)
Last week: 10
Worth noting: The Cardinals snapped a seven-game losing streak with Saturday’s home win over Clemson, the first victory for interim coach Mike Pegues.
Worth quoting: “It's been a long, hard road. There's been a lot said about us, a lot of unfair rhetoric and propaganda about things that are going on internally in our program, which I think is completely unfair to be quite honest with you. Just like any other family, you go through things. I don't know what type of family you come from, but I come from a family where it's not always peaches and cream (but) our program hasn't been any different this year.”
-Cardinals interim coach Mike Pegues after Saturday’s win.
11. Pittsburgh (11-17; 6-11)
Last week: 13
Worth noting: Panthers forward Mo Gueye scored a career-high 27 points with 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season in Saturday’s home loss to Georgia Tech, which snapped a season-best three-game win streak. Prior to that run, the Panthers had lost four straight and six of seven.
Worth quoting: "We've continued to show up and we've continued to try and get better. One loss is not indicative of where we are right now. I do think our team has gotten better."
-Panthers coach Jeff Capel
12. Georgia Tech (11-15; 4-11)
Last week: 14
Worth noting: The Yellow Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s victory at Pittsburgh. It was Georgia Tech’s first league road win since winning Jan. 12 at Boston College.
Worth quoting: “You're better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than being in the air wishing you were on the ground. I'm telling you, I've said that so many times in the airport to so many people when they complain about a (flight) delay. It's just a great reminder."
-Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner, whose team bused from Pittsburgh to Syracuse for Monday's game because of charter flight issues.
13. Boston College (9-16; 4-11)
Last week: 11
Worth noting: After scoring a season high 95 points in an overtime loss at Notre Dame on Wednesday, Boston College shot .348 percent from the field, .179 percent from 3 for a season low 56 points in a 20-point loss Saturday at Syracuse.
Worth quoting: “There was some mental fatigue there. Just leading up to this game, you could see some fatigue in our guys. Mentally, we weren’t as sharp as we need to be.”
-Eagles coach Earl Grant after Saturday’s loss at Syracuse.
14. NC State (11-16; 4-12)
Last week: 15
Worth noting: The only league team idle last weekend, North Carolina State snapped a six-game losing streak (and eight of nine) with Tuesday’s win at Georgia Tech. It was State’s first league road win since Jan. 12 at Louisville.
Worth quoting: "It's so different. Hey, we won the Big East championship there (as a Louisville assistant). Both places are great. The Garden is legendary. But (Barclays Center) is completely different. One's more legendary and one will be legendary one day."
-Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts on playing conference tournament games in Madison Square Garden compared to Barclays Center.
15. Clemson (12-15; 4-12)
Last week: 12
Worth noting: A 75-69 home victory over Florida State on Feb. 2 in a game where it led by as many as 12 points and never trailed helped Clemson get to 4-7 in league play. The Tigers have since lost five straight, including three in a row at home.
Worth quoting: "Just coach like you always do. Our guys have good spirit. Just appeal to guys' competitive spirit about getting better and learning and trying to become a better player and a better team. We've battled in this stretch. It hasn't been easy. We just haven't been quite good enough to win. We've just got to play a little bit better."
-Tigers coach Brad Brownell
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI